Pensioner tells how his life has become a hell since son-in-law attacked his family

Accused tried to stab father-in-law and then knocked him down, court hears


A pensioner has told of how his life has changed forever after his son-in-law arrived at his house and tried to stab him and his son before knocking him and his brother down by driving at them in his car.

Michael O’Keeffe (76) told Cork Circuit Criminal Court that he had never encountered evil in his life until November 9th, 2019 when his son-in-law, Warren Cross (48) arrived at his house at Maldron, Ringmahon Cross, Blackrock in Cork and proceeded to attack him and his son.

“That night I was exposed to pure evil – my life was turned upside down when my son-in-law, Warren Cross tried to stab my son – luckily he escaped uninjured but then he tried to stab me in the stomach – I moved away but got stabbed in the hand,” he said.

“As a father, I wanted to protect my family but I was unable to do so because of my injury – I thank God every day that he was unsuccessful in getting in our home where he could have caused further injury to my family,” he added.

His wife had collapsed some days after the attack and he feared he was going to lose her as a result of the events of that evening which “started a living hell in my life”, said Mr O’Keeffe. He paid tribute to Det Garda Sean Stack and Garda Paul Lynch for their help and support.

Mr O’Keeffe was reading from his Victim Impact Statement after his son-in-law, Warren Cross, from Gleann Aras View, Grenagh, Co Cork had pleaded guilty to assault causing him harm, causing criminal damage to his home and possession of a dagger capable of inflicting serious injury.

Cross also pleaded guilty to intentionally or recklessly driving his car at Mr O’Keeffe colliding with him, also driving his car at his brother, Donal O’Keeffe knocking him down and driving it at two women and colliding with them, thereby causing a risk of death or serious injury to all of them.

Garda Paul Lynch told how gardaí were called to Mr O’Keeffe’s house after Cross had arrived there in an agitated state wanting to see his wife, Mr O’Keeffe’s daughter and an argument broke out outside the house and led to him pushing Mr O’Keeffe Snr and his son, Michael O’Keeffe Jnr.

Cross then produced a dagger-type knife and tried to stab Mr O’Keeffe Snr, wounding him on the hand before he picked up a concrete flower box which he flung at the front door of the house twice, smashing the glass and causing some €900 worth of damage.

Cross then got back into his car and drove at Mr O’Keeffe Snr, first colliding with a woman passing by and then colliding with the pensioner and knocking him to the ground before driving at Mr O’Keeffe’s brother, Donal who lived next door and knocking him to the ground.

Cross had also collided with another woman who was in the area before gardaí arrived at the scene where they found Cross in his car, stuck on a grass embankment. He began shouting at gardaí to shoot him and he was arrested under the Mental Health Act and taken to hospital.

Garda Lynch agreed with defence barrister, Emmet Boyle BL that Cross had a history of mental illness and had been discharged from St John of God Psychiatric Hospital in Dublin two months earlier and had then on the day in question called to his in-laws in Blackrock.*

Garda Lynch said that Cross was very co-operative when he was later interviewed by gardaí and he confirmed that Cross had no previous conviction but he said that Mr O’Keeffe’s family were anxious that they would have no further contact with him.

Mr Boyle BL pleaded for lenience and said: “He expressed remorse in immediacy. He is an in-patient at St John of God’s Hospital. He has been there since November 11th, 2019. Unfortunately, all he can do is express remorse and continue to act properly.”

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin noted that a medical report from a psychiatrist at St John of God’s had found that Cross was not delusional or psychotic at the time of his discharge and the court heard that he had returned there on November 11th, 2019 and had been there since receiving treatment.

Judge Ó Donnabháin said: “For a man of Mr O’Keeffe’s age to be exposed to violence like this is shocking – the assault with the knife before he throws a concrete pot at the door, his behaviour towards innocent bystanders, the injured party was struck by the vehicle and was extremely lucky to avoid serious injury.”

Judge Ó Donnabháin acknowledged that Cross had a history of psychiatric problems and he accepted that he had pleaded guilty, had no previous convictions and had expressed remorse for his actions but he believed he had to mark the seriousness of the offences with a custodial sentence.

He sentenced Cross to three years in jail but suspended the final 12 months and ordered that he not come within 5km of Blackrock and his in-laws while he also disqualified him from driving for a period of 10 years given he used the car in the commission of one of the offences.

*This article was amended on November 24th