A 29-year-old man stabbed a stranger in the head, leaving him with a significant brain injury and a lifelong disability, just hours after Limerick’s victory in the 2018 All-Ireland hurling final, a court has heard.
The Central Criminal Court also heard during Thomas Power's sentence hearing on Thursday that the knife penetrated victim Eoin Casey's skull, leaving the tip of the weapon inside.
In a letter of apology to the victim, Power said he did not expect his apology to be accepted by Mr Casey but said what he had done was “utterly inexcusable”.
Power of Alderwood Avenue, Caherdavin in Limerick pleaded guilty last November to assaulting Mr Casey (25), causing him serious harm in the early hours of August 20th, 2018 at Woodbine Avenue in Caherdavin.
Power has also pleaded guilty to assaulting Aaron Grant, causing him harm, on the same occasion.
At the defendant’s sentence hearing on Thursday, two victim impact statements were read to the court by prosecuting counsel Conor Devally SC.
Martin Casey said his brother Eoin was given a 50/50 chance of staying alive at the time and all they could do as a family "was hold each other and cry".
Every day he wakes up wishing it was a “terrible nightmare”, he said.
“I will never be able to erase the image of Eoin. I never knew a human’s head could swell so much and be so disfigured. We know a part of him died that night and it would never be like it used to be. He will never tie his own laces again or text a girl, never be able to remember his mobile number, simple everyday things we think nothing of. Eoin needs help with simple, everyday things now,” he said.
“Caring for someone with a brain injury is a full time job. I wish I could see bright things ahead,” he said.
He said his brother was stabbed 500 metres from their home and that whilst Power had not taken Eoin’s life, he had taken his brother’s livelihood. “He has taken his ability to work and his purpose in life. He has given our family a life sentence of fear and taken away all of our freedom,” he said.
Mr Devally read a second victim impact statement from Mr Grant who was also stabbed twice on the night in the back and shoulder. Mr Grant said: "What should have been an enjoyable night turned into a nightmare. I have never seen so much blood. I kept telling Eoin that he would be ok but I could hardly get the words out. I felt helpless and vulnerable and what I saw that night will live with me forever. Since that night my life has changed drastically. I've become very uncomfortable with groups of people. The trauma of that night will live with me forever."
Detective Garda Mark McAuley summarised the facts of the case. He said CCTV footage indicated two groups of men, who had each been out celebrating separately that day, encountered each other through a “chance meeting” in the Caherdavin area of the city as they made their way home in the early hours of September 20, 2018.
The court heard that Power and one of Casey’s friends had a mutual friend and this was what “sparked up the conversation” between them which had led to the altercation. “There was no history between them,” said the detective.
The witness said Power received a blow from Mr Casey, which was not of a significant nature but caused him to stumble. Power then hurried back to a house where his girlfriend, who was expecting their first child at the time, was living and which was less than 200 metres away. He retrieved a knife and moments later returned to Woodbine Avenue, where Mr Casey and Mr Grant were. Mr Grant told gardaí that Power assaulted them both and within moments of the attack, he saw his friend Mr Casey “bleeding to an alarming degree” on the ground.
Mr Casey had to be taken to Cork University Hospital where he was put on a life support machine as the knife had penetrated the left temple lobe across the brain. A CT scan showed several areas of traumatic haemorrhage located in the left region of the brain and a metallic fragment was embedded in the right side of the skull, which appeared to be consistent with the tip of the knife.
The court heard Mr Casey spent five months in a rehabilitation centre in Dun Laoghaire in Dublin and has “ongoing” medical treatment.
Under cross-examination, Det Gda McAuley agreed with defence counsel Sean Gillane SC that his client found it difficult to accept that he could have done this in his initial interview but “opened up” in his third interview, saying that he must have stabbed Mr Casey.
The detective further agreed that Power said in his interviews that it was “a disgusting thing to do” and he was “truly sorry”.
In his submissions, the barrister asked the court to take into consideration that this was a “chance encounter” rather than some “animus or pre-meditation”.
Mr Justice Paul McDermott remanded the defendant in custody until Monday, when he will be sentenced.