A mother-of-one has described the moment her “evil, sadistic” neighbour - a man she has known since childhood - left her permanently paralysed in an attempted gun murder that “obliterated” her life.
The Central Criminal Court heard during Friday's sentence hearing that 33-year-old Dean McCarthy "burst into" Sinead Connolly's (34) home with a gun "in a rush of adrenaline" and repeatedly shot her while her eight-year-old daughter hid under the kitchen table.
The court heard that in the lead-up to the shooting, McCarthy had subjected Ms Connolly to a campaign of abuse where he regularly called her a “whore” and had grabbed her by the throat and spat in her face. McCarthy also told her he was going to “leave her in a body bag”.
Today’s sentencing also heard that McCarthy was accidentally shot and seriously injured when receiving the firearm he tried to murder Ms Connolly with.
“Very menacing” CCTV footage of four masked men outside McCarthy’s flat moments before the shooting was shown to the court. One man can be seen holding up his fingers “like a pistol or a gun sign”, the court heard.
Defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC read a letter of apology to the court on behalf of his client saying: “Things got out of hand quickly and although four masked men tried to force entry to my home that morning to bring me harm, you did not deserve to be hurt like that. I sincerely hope you and your daughter fully recover and I wish you both the very best”.
The barrister stressed that this was not “a planned event” and that the case exemplified most “that people should never take the law into their own hands”.
Dean McCarthy (33), who is Ms Connolly's neighbour, with an address at Bernard Curtis House, Bluebell Road, Dublin 12 appeared at the court today for his sentence hearing, having pleaded guilty last January to her attempted murder on March 6, 2021.
McCarthy also pleaded guilty on Friday to possession of a firearm, to wit, a G9A Grand Power semi-automatic handgun, with intent to endanger life on the same date at the same location.
The defendant further pleaded guilty today to having in his possession Luger Barnaul ammunition, in such circumstances as to give rise to a reasonable inference that he had not got in his possession for a lawful purpose on the same occasion.
At the defendant’s sentence hearing today, a victim impact statement was read to the court by Ms Connolly, who had to be pushed to the stand in her wheelchair by a garda. Ms Connolly held up a photograph of herself and her daughter saying: “This is a photograph of how I was when I woke up [from the surgery].” A supporter of Ms Connolly shouted at McCarthy who was in the dock: “Are you looking at that there?”. Ms Connolly’s sister stood behind her and rubbed her back as she read.
Ms Connolly began her statement by saying that she was at home with her daughter and some friends when Dean McCarthy “burst” into her house with a gun “in a cowardly attempt to murder me”.
“I was shot three times and as a result I have been left paralysed; paralysed forever. Another serious consequence of this heinous act is I have a high dependency on a multitude of pharmaceuticals and almost 100 percent reliance on other people, both medical staff and family. We were making plans for my daughter’s eight birthday a few days after this frenzied and evil attack which changed our lives forever.
“I have known Dean McCarthy since we were small children and he lived next door. He subjected me and my daughter to constant abuse, spitting mucus on my windows. His delusionary sense of power transformed him into the epitome of a bully who subjected both me and my daughter to this bullying.
“Dean McCarthy burst into my home firing at me. The three bullets that hit me all caused serious damage. One shattered my collar bone, another broke several ribs and one punctured my lung and shattered my spine. A team of surgeons worked relentlessly for over 12 hours to keep me alive. The head of the ICU, who had 40 years experience later said they were the most catastrophic injuries he had ever seen. Two days later I had another major spinal operation to try to maintain rigidity of the shattered spine using steel rods and bolts. I remained in a coma for another 15 days which caused tremendous grief and anxiety to my whole family and close friends as my life hung in the balance, nobody could understand such abject cruelty and manifest evil. My mother later suffered a stroke which I believe was brought on by everything that happened as she was my main caregiver.
“To make matters worse I had to undergo a tracheotomy which rendered me speechless and unable to eat or drink. I couldn’t communicate with anyone, including my daughter. This caused me heightened consternation. This was made worse by the fact that I didn’t know the full extent of my injuries.
She continued: “Since this attempt on my life I have had to endure constant medical problems, almost perpetual infections, low blood pressure and panic attacks. The pain is not limited to physical, it is obviously emotional both for me and my daughter.
“We have had to separate from each other and I have had to relinquish my parenting role and my responsibility for my daughter’s wellbeing. This is extremely hard because we are so close, my daughter has had to leave home and change schools but no child should ever have to witness her mother covered in blood, lying unconscious on the floor.
She added: “All these things that we take for granted, such as lifting our kids, going to the seaside, swimming, climbing, dancing together are all beyond my physical ability. Any plans we had were diminished by Dean McCarthy.
“I have remained in hospital for nearly 13 months now and I am unsure how long this will be for.
“Dean McCarthy is an evil, sadistic and cowardly bully. Dean McCarthy is a danger to society. He tried to kill me and even though he didn’t he has obliterated both mine and my family’s life. He deserves the severest punishment in law.”
At today's sentence hearing, Sergeant Tom Cooney of Kilmainham Garda Station detailed the background to the attempted murder. He told prosecution counsel, Anne Marie Lawlor SC, that McCarthy was Ms Connolly's neighbour and lived immediately adjacent to her in a block of flats in Bluebell.
The Sergeant said he could not take a statement from Ms Connolly until 15 days after the shooting as she was in a coma. He said the victim had been shot twice but five bullets were discharged in her home.
Outlining the events that led up to the incident, Ms Lawlor said that McCarthy received a firearm from a man known as "Mr B", who had attended at Bernard Curtis House that day. McCarthy used this weapon to shoot Ms Connolly.
Gardai learned from Ms Connolly that she and McCarthy had known each other for a significant period of time from living in their respective homes and growing up together in the area.
According to Sgt Cooney, Ms Connolly said that the defendant had indicated some degree of aggression towards her in the preceding months and would “whack” his arm off her and call her names in front of her eight-year-old daughter.
Ms Lawlor told the court: “He would regularly call her a “whore” and grab her by the throat and spit in her face. One of the last occasions Ms Connolly met him prior to March 6 he told her he was going to leave her in a body bag and she said she felt like he wanted her dead”.
On March 6, the court heard, preparations for a birthday party were being made and arrangements were in place that four friends would call to Ms Connolly's home. There was some indication that Ms Connolly's daughter would go to Belfast to Ms Connolly's partner Vincent Kelly.
A statement from Ms Connolly's treating physician said that she was admitted to intensive care at 4pm on March 6 having sustained multiple gunshot wounds to her upper body. She had significant pulmonary haemorrhage from the gunshot wounds and after surgery it became apparent that she was not moving her lower limbs. A CT scan showed a spinal fracture in her upper spine and she was transferred to the spinal unit at the Mater Hospital on March 8 to stabilise her thoracic spine. The court heard that the injuries she sustained seem unlikely to be reversible and have changed her life. She remains to this day in the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire, the court heard.
Ms Connolly’s daughter is in the care of her sister and the victim has never ben in a position to return to live in her home.
The court heard that McCarthy has 12 previous convictions, all at District Court level, which include possession of knives, criminal damage and road traffic matters.
Mr Justice Paul McDermott remanded McCarthy in custody until April 26, when he will be sentenced.