A 24-year-old man who stalked and attacked a teenager as she walked home alone in the early hours of the morning in Cork last year has been jailed for three years.
Daniel Szymczyk, originally from Poland, pleaded guilty to a number of offences including false imprisonment of the 19-year-old, robbery from her person and assault causing her harm in Bandon, West Cork on December 1st last.
At Cork Circuit Criminal Court on Friday, Det Garda Peter Nolan told how the girl had been out walking home alone at around 3am from celebrating her 19th birthday when she spotted Szymczyk on the opposite footpath.
She did not know him and he did not know her but she became uneasy so she went to ring her friend. However, Szymczyk raced across the street, grabbed the phone from her and flung it to the ground, smashing it.
He told her in broken English that he wanted to walk her home and when she refused, “he completely flipped” and pushed her to the ground with force and punched her in the forehead as she began to scream for help.
He pulled her up and grabbed her from behind, holding one hand around her waist and the other over her mouth to stifle her screams for help as he forcibly walked her some 160 metres back the way they had come.
“He told her that if she shouted or made a noise that she would get an arrow through the back of her head - the injured party was terrified and in complete fear of her attacker,” said Det Garda Nolan.
Szymczyk was about to march her into an unlit car park off the road when the girl spotted three youths in the distance and she waited until they got closer and were within hearing distance when she began to scream for help.
He pushed her to the ground, hitting her head off the ground before he kicked her in the face, cutting her lip and then running off with her handbag as the three youths came to the girl’s aid and brought her to Bandon Garda station.
Det Garda Nolan said gardaí examined over 100 hours of CCTV footage obtained from over 20 locations around Bandon before they were able to identify Szymczyk at a number of locations.
He said the CCTV footage clearly showed Szymczyk effectively stalking the girl as she walked home. He dodged in behind park cars and into doorways whenever traffic passed to avoid being spotted, he said.
Gardaí arrested Szymczyk on December 14th at his home in the town. He made some admissions during interview, the court was told, but said he did not have a full recollection of the night due to intoxication.
Det Garda Nolan said Szymczyk, who moved to Bandon six years ago with his parents and was working in a local factory, had six previous convictions but they were all for minor offences.
Defence barrister, Ben Shorten BL pleaded for leniency, saying while it was not an excuse, the fact his client had consumed 0.7 litres of vodka, five cans of beer and a gramme of amphetamine did perhaps provide some explanation.
He said given that all Szymczyk’s previous convictions were of a relatively minor nature, his behaviour might be considered an aberration and did not reflect where he was coming from or where he wanted to go.
Judge Helen Boyle said it was a most serious offence. Szymczyk had stalked the young woman walking home alone, attacked her and knocked her to the ground in what was "a sustained, vicious and inexplicable assault".
She acknowledged that Szymczyk had apologised unreservedly to his victim and expressed his shame for his actions. She also acknowledged that it appeared he had the support of his family who were well-respected in Bandon.
The judge said she believed the appropriate sentence was one of four years but she suspended the final 12 months in the light of Szymczyk’s guilty plea which had saved his victim the trauma of having to testify in a trial.