A shoplifter bit off the ear of a Tesco customer who tried to stop him stealing razors, lamb and champagne before swallowing it and saying: “I have HIV”, a court has heard.
When other customers told the victim to go and look for his missing ear in the wake of the attack, he told them: “I can't. It's in his stomach”, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard on Friday.
Liam Dowds (40) pleaded guilty to one count of stealing razors, lamb and champagne from Tesco supermarket at Navan Road, Cabra, one count of assault causing harm to the victim, David Cunningham, and one count of criminal damage at Finglas Garda station on May 15th, 2021.
The court heard that after he was arrested, Dowds, with an address at Backpackers City Hostel, Dublin 1, told gardaí he was going to “piss and shit” all over the station. He then proceeded to smear faeces all over his face and the walls of his cell, Garda Shane Byrne told the court.
Garrett McCormack BL, prosecuting, told the court that the victim was coming down the escalator at Tesco when he saw a shoplifter being tackled by a security guard and a shop manager. Mr Cunningham went to their aid, before Dowds headbutted him several times and bit his ear off.
Dowds then swallowed the ear, the court heard. “There was blood everywhere,” Gda Byrne said. Dowds was restrained and Mr Cunningham sat down to wait for gardaí to arrive. When other customers urged him to look for his missing ear, he told them it was in Dowds' stomach.
When Gda Byrne arrived at the scene, he found a bottle of methadone in Dowds' bag along with the stolen goods and asked him if he was a drug addict. Dowds replied, “Yeah I am and I have HIV,” before laughing at Mr Cunningham, who was nearby.
In a victim impact statement handed into court, Mr Cunningham said he is now self-conscious about how he looks and is paranoid about his personal safety. He said he is still waiting to see a plastic surgeon and remains unsure of the long term effects and the extent of the damage to his ear.
Pieter Le Vert BL, defending, told the court Dowds has a troubled history of mental health problems and drug addiction. He has 14 previous convictions, including theft, in the Republic of Ireland and further convictions in Northern Ireland, where he is originally from.
“He is devastated at what he did. He is ashamed and embarrassed,” Mr Le Vert said.
Dowds wished to apologise to his victim and to gardaí, the court heard. “It's not worth much and he knows that but he did want to say it,” Mr Le Vert said. Dowds has been in custody since the assault and is “thriving” in prison, the court heard.
Judge Melanie Greally noted there were “elements of psychosis” in the case but said: “It was also vindictive what he said about HIV to a man whose ear he had just bitten off.”
She adjourned the matter for sentencing on July 8th.