Attempted murder victim: ‘Someone looking over me’ as gun ‘kept jamming’

Woman whose ex tried to shoot her in the face tells court she has ‘constant flashbacks’

 

A mother-of-one has said that someone must have been looking over her the day that her ex-boyfriend’s gun repeatedly jammed as he tried to shoot her in the face.

The Dublin man’s barrister also said that ‘but for the good grace and intervention of another power’, he may have faced a more serious charge than the attempted murder to which he had pleaded guilty. It was ‘a consequence of jealousy and an inability to accept that the relationship had collapsed’.

Gerard Mooney (39) of no fixed abode, but with a previous address in Castlerea, Co Roscommon, was before the Central Criminal Court on Tuesday for his sentence hearing.

The father-of-three had pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of Stephanie Clifton (28) on February 12th 2017 at Cartron, Co Roscommon.

He had also pleaded guilty to committing burglary on that date at the home of Stephen O’Donoghue in Cartron, which is near Carrick-on-Shannon. This involved him entering as a trespasser and committing assault causing harm to Stephanie Clifton.

He had also admitted to the possession of a shotgun, making a threat to kill or cause serious harm to Ms Clifton and the criminal damage of Mr O’Donoghue’s door on the same occasion.

He had further pleaded guilty to harassing Ms Clifton by persistently following, watching, pestering, besetting or communicating with her between 7th and 12th February 2017.

Garda Fergal Reynolds of Boyle Garda station testified on Tuesday that Ms Clifford, a Birmingham-born woman, had met the accused three or four years ago when they were both living in Co Roscommon.

He told Philipp Rahn BL, prosecuting, that they began a turbulent relationship, which had broken down by February 7th, 2017. On that evening, she was at home in Meadow Crest, Boyle, with her young daughter, who was asleep.

The accused arrived around 8.30pm and began banging on her windows and demanding entry. She had moved on with someone else and refused to let him in, but she spoke to him through a window.

“He would have been at her house for a couple of hours trying to talk to her,” explained Gda Reynolds.

Bail

He said that he had become quite agitated when he realised that he was not getting in. His victim told him that she had to go to attend to food that was cooking and left the window. However, she heard glass breaking, looked out and saw the accused standing with a crowbar, having smashed her car windows.

It was almost midnight when she called the gardai. The officers attended and later came across the accused leaving the estate. He took off running, but was found hiding inside a hedge, two feet off the ground.

He was released from custody the following morning on strict bail conditions, including that he would not have any contact with the victim and stay out of Boyle. However, he phoned her and threatened to kill her that very morning.

“See you, rat face. You’re dead,” he had said, while also threatening to burn her house down.

He proceeded to make another 273 calls to her on 11th and 12th February.

She went to stay with her cousin, Mr O’Donoghue, in Cartron that weekend. She woke up at 7.30am on Sunday 12th to find the accused standing over her. He pulled her out of bed and assaulted her.

The accused had brought another man with him, and they left together after the assault. Ms Clifton dialled 999 and gardai were dispatched.

“We were enroute to the initial call to the assault when we got a further call to say he’d returned to the house and a shot had been discharged,” recalled Gda Reynolds.

The door had been unlocked on his first arrival, but Mooney found it locked this time. He fired a shot through the glass part of the door, and gained entry that way.

Wearing blue surgical gloves, he walked to the bedroom with a sawn-off shotgun in his hand. He brought Ms Clifton to the kitchen and pointed the gun to her head.

Pulled trigger

He pulled the trigger a number of times but it did not fire. So he opened it and tried to unload and load it before pulling the trigger another few times. It still did not work so he tried the same procedure again.

“He just seemed to be getting really pissed off when the gun didn’t go off,” said Mr O’Donoghue in a statement. “The gun was inches away from her face. She was shouting: ‘Ger don’t do it. Please don’t do it’.”

Before he left, Mooney shouted that he would kill her if she rang the gardai. He also referred to killing her father and Mr O’Donoghue.

Gardai were there by the time the accused made his next threats to his victim, this time in a phone call.

He was tracked down that evening, hiding in a wardrobe in a friend’s house in Castlerea. He was arrested and interviewed, but denied everything.

Gda Reynolds read out Ms Clifton’s victim impact statement, in which she said that her mental health had suffered as a result of the incident with the gun.

“I have constant flashbacks of the gun being pointed at my head and him reloading,” she wrote.

She said she had since been diagnosed with PTSD, was on medication and had felt suicidal. She had also been left with a fractured rib.

“I constantly suffer from anxiety and jump at loud bangs,” she continued. “I feel weakened as a person but have to stay strong for my daughter.”

She said she felt like prisoner in her own home and constantly though he would turn up. She also had to leave work as a result.

“I think that someone must have been looking over me that day, as the bullets kept jamming, despite him reloading,” she said.

She said that her daughter had also been affected and that her worst fear was now ‘that my Mummy would be killed’.

She requested a lifetime barring order on Mooney, who had 42 previous convictions.

Under cross-examination by Michael Bowman SC, defending, Gda Reynolds agreed that the accused had been heard shouting ‘I love you’ ‘like a wild animal’.

“He wasn’t prepared to see the relationship go,” noted the garda

“The defendant was reluctant to accept it had concluded,” agreed Mr Bowman. “He knew there was a third person on the scene... He shouted that he loved her and it was her fault; she had driven him to this.”

Mr Bowman said that his client had a history of self harm, had attempted suicide and had received inpatient psychiatric treatment. Originally from Dublin, both he and his brother had moved to Castlerea and he had been living in a car at the time.

He told Mr Justice Michael White that the offence was ‘a consequence of jealousy and an inability to accept that the relationship had collapsed’.

“But for the good grace and intervention of another power, so to speak, he may well have been facing a far more serious charge,” he said.

He said that his greatest acknowledgement of wrongdoing was his guilty plea and that his period in custody had been an awakening.

Justice White remanded the accused in custody until January 18th, when he will hand down sentence.