Man jailed over robbery of amputee in wheelchair

Connie Foley (40) jailed for five years for the assault and robbery of John O’Leary (50)

An amputee who ended up on the ground of a Cork street after being dragged from his wheelchair by a thief has said the attack was a worse experience than losing his legs.

Connie Foley (40) of Gould's Hill, Mallow, Co Cork was jailed for five years for the assault and robbery of John O'Leary at Gravel Lane in Cork on September 14th, 2020.

In a victim impact statement, Mr O’Leary (50) told Cork Circuit Criminal Court the incident had “utterly destroyed” his life.

He said that two months prior to the attack, he had his right leg amputated. He was finding it difficult to adjust but was “coping”, he said.

“But on that day, Mr Foley, you utterly and absolutely detroyed everything to the point that what you did to me did more damage to me than the amputation of my leg did to me.

“What you did to me that day destroyed my faith and trust in anybody around me.

“You made me feel like a coward which I hate as anytime I have to venture out now I find myself very conscious of anyone who is walking towards me wondering are they suddenly going to lunge at me.”

Nine days after the incident, Mr O’Leary had his other leg amputated.

“I had to start all over again on the physical side of things. But what you, Mr Foley, have done to me mentally is my biggest challenge. One thing I do know is that you will never win.”

Det Garda Steven Fuller told the court the victim was in his wheelchair when Foley approached him and demanded he hand over his mobile phone and money. He also tried to steal a can of cider which Mr O’Leary was drinking.

While grabbing Mr O’Leary’s wallet, Foley dragged him from his wheelchair. Foley fled the scene by foot with the wallet, which contained €55 in cash.

Mr O’Leary, who was on the ground for several minuites before being spotted, was helped back in to his wheelchair by a passing motorist and staff at Penny Dinners soup kitchen.

Det Garda Fuller said Mr O’Leary sustained injuries to the left hand side of his body and to the site of his recently amputated right leg. He incurred swelling to his left leg.

Mr O’Leary was in the city centre to receive a Covid-19 test in advance of the amputation surgery on his left leg.

The court heard that Foley, who pleaded guilty, had 127 previous convictions, including for robbery and assault.

Foley apologised to his victim and said his heart went out to him. “I am very sorry. I am a raging alcoholic.”

Jailing Foley for five years, Judge Sean Ó Donnabháin said the incident was “beyond belief” adding that it was “an act of inhumanity bordering on depravity.”