A Dublin man has been sentenced to eight and a half years in prison after he subjected his neighbour to a “prolonged and terrifying” attack while her two children slept upstairs, a court has heard.
The two neighbours had been drinking together at a city centre flat when Jonathan Whelan (48) became paranoid and thought the victim had stolen some of his cannabis, his sentence hearing at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard on Wednesday.
Whelan's friend arrived, and both men proceeded to beat the woman with a metal rod for hours and threatened to “cut her up” and “finish her off” with a knife, scissors and a razor blade.
They also forced the victim to strip to her underwear and repeatedly forced a toothbrush down her throat to make her vomit until she was throwing up blood, the court heard.
“She thought she was going to die and with good reason,” said Judge Martin Nolan, describing the offence as assault causing harm “at the very highest end”.
Judge Nolan condemned what he said was an “prolonged and incredibly terrifying ordeal” and set a headline sentence for the assault and for cannabis possession of ten to 12 years, which he reduced to eight and a half years on mitigation.
The court heard that when the victim and her daughter eventually managed to call 999, gardaí came and discovered cannabis to the value of €27,968 in Whelan's flat.
Whelan pleaded guilty to assault causing harm at his flat on North Great Charles Street, Dublin 1 on April 4th, 2021, for which he received a four-year sentence.
He further admitted possessing cannabis for sale or supply on the same date and was sentenced to four and a half years, to run consecutively to the previous sentence.
Garda Louise Moran told Lisa Dempsey BL, prosecuting, that the woman had been living in Ireland for three years with her two children, aged 15 and 10.
They were in accommodation provided by Dublin City Council when she got to know her neighbour Whelan and his now deceased partner.
Gda Moran said that on the day in question she was drinking beer in Whelan's flat and noticed that his behaviour changed when he started drinking neat whiskey.
The woman later told gardaí that Whelan started saying some of his weed was missing and she saw that his eyes became “different” and he wanted to hurt her.
The woman became afraid and told him she hadn't touched his weed and wanted to go home to her apartment but Whelan lodged a metal rod in the door to stop her leaving.
He phoned his friend who came around and both men started beating her with their fists and with the metal rod on her head, forehead and legs.
The men brought a knife, a big razor blade and a scissors into the bathroom and threatened to cut the woman up if she didn't give them back the weed, saying they had already been to prison and that “hurting her wouldn't make a difference”.
The women was screaming for help but no-one heard and they pushed her onto the bed and made her strip to her underwear to see if she was concealing any drugs.
The men took it in turns to beat her with the metal rod for hours until the woman stopped shouting as she feared they would kill her.
They also forced her to vomit in the belief that she may have swallowed their cannabis, jabbing a toothbrush down her throat until she was vomiting blood.
When the woman told the men she couldn't breathe, they responded that it didn't matter, because “she was dead anyway and she wasn't going home,” the court heard.
The men took her phone and demanded €5,000 immediately and the woman lied and said she had €500 in her flat which she would give them.
Whelan took the woman's keys and went up to and ransacked her flat, waking her teenage daughter and pushing her aggressively.
The daughter told gardaí that she was terrified and saw her mother wearing only her jeans and a bra, crying and with make-up and mascara all over her face.
Gda Moran said the woman and her daughter communicated in another language and eventually managed to phone gardaí.
After gardaí arrived and came into the woman's house, Whelan and his co-accused started banging and kicking the door saying “Give me back my drugs or I'll get the bullet.”
Whelan also showed the gardaí a video of them beating up and torturing the woman in his bathroom.
On arrest, Whelan initially rejected the complaints and said he had been in a sexual relationship with the victim, which she denied.
Whelan was found in possession of a large kitchen knife and several bags of cannabis herb.
He has 63 previous convictions including assault causing harm, drugs and firearms offences.
Padraig Dwyer SC, defending, said Whelan had been holding the drugs as a result of a drug debt that he had accrued.
Mr Dwyer said the evidence in the case was disturbing and that it had clearly been “an outrageous and serious attack”, for which Whelan accepts responsibility and is remorseful.
The court heard Whelan is on an enhanced regime in prison and is working and attending counselling. He has also completed courses in literacy and in Cardiac First Response.
Mr Dwyer said Whelan grew up in very difficult circumstances where he witnessed abuse of alcohol and excessive violence.
Whelan fell into drug use at a young age, the court heard, and had been addicted to crack cocaine, cocaine and heroin.
Counsel for Whelan described him as a “model prisoner” who had demonstrated a capacity to reform.
The sentence was backdated to April 7th, 2021 when Whelan went into custody.