Two men have been jailed for nine years after causing “life changing injuries” to a 93-year-old woman during a robbery where she was knocked to the ground and dragged along the road as she tried to hang on to her handbag after collecting her pension.
Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard the woman was left in “excruciating pain” following what Judge Helen Boyle described as a “scarcely comprehensible act of thuggery in broad daylight” at St Luke’s in the city on November 9th, 2022.
The woman needed 24-hour care in the aftermath of the robbery, becoming a “prisoner in her own home” having sustained multiple fractures to her pelvis.
However, she has made significant progress in recent weeks, the court heard, and can now walk with a walking aid.
Dt Inspector Denis Lynch told the court that on the afternoon of November 9th, the woman left her home to collect her pension at St Luke’s Post Office on the northside of Cork city.
At 4.30pm, she walked out of post office and along Wellington Road, which was captured on CCTV. As she turned onto Charlemont Terrace, where there was no CCTV cameras, she felt her bag being pulled off her shoulder from behind.
Det Insp Lynch said the pensioner tried to hold on to her bag and saw two men, later identified as Damien Long (32), of no fixed abode and formerly of Ardbhaile, Mayfield, Cork, and Damian Fitzgerald (35), of Inniscarra Road, Fairhill, Cork.
“One of the males was running off as the other male continued to pull violently at the bag. As a result of the force being applied, the woman fell to the ground and one of the males ran off with her bag.
“Both males ran in the same direction towards town. The woman was in instant pain and screamed for assistance and help.”
Det Insp Lynch said the woman’s handbag, containing her purse, cards, driving licence, keys and mobile phone, was taken and despite an extensive search, the items were never recovered.
I never in my life experienced such fear
Det Inspector Lynch said that the victim sustained life changing injuries during the incident.
“She sustained multiple fractures to her pelvis and is in constant pain since this incident,” he said.
He told Judge Boyle that a woman came to the assistance of the elderly lady following the attack. The victim was assisted by a woman who heard her screams, while a man on Wellington Road attempted to impede the two accused before contacting gardaí.
Long and Fitzgerald were arrested on November 12th. Long denied his involvement in the robbery while Fitzgerald remained silent during garda interviews. The pair were charged with robbery on November 14th and have been in custody since.
In a victim impact statement read into evidence by a member of the victim’s family, the woman said she had been living a “full and independent life” before the robbery.
“I enjoyed shopping and cooking for myself, driving myself to play bridge twice a week, going into town to get Mass and browse the shops, and especially attending social gatherings with family and friends.”
She said the pandemic had put a “long pause” on her enjoyment of normal life, but with the easing of restrictions, she had regained her independence.
“I had re-entered normal life. Then came that awful afternoon in November when I was attacked and robbed, not just of my handbag, but of my recently regained normal life.
“I never in my life experienced such fear. I could not comprehend how such a horrible act could happen to a 93-year-old woman,” she said.
“The ordeal affected my confidence, lead to long restless nights, and negatively impacted my overall health.”
She added she remained in great pain for months after the incident, and thanked her “wonderful family” who cared for her.
The woman said the attack had left her unable to “walk downtown” from her home, which had been part of her routine of over 60 years.
The victim said she went to court on April 24th anticipating that she would have to give evidence at the trial of the two men. However, after the jury was selected, the men entered guilty pleas.
She said they could have spared her the ordeal of going to court by entering a plea at an earlier stage.
Fitzgerald and Long pleaded guilty in April to robbing the woman of a handbag containing €588, a purse, a PTSB card, a Revolut card, a driving licence, a public services card, house keys and a Galaxy mobile phone on the day in question.
The pair have 313 previous convictions between them. Both men submitted letters of apology — both to the victim and to the court.
Jane Hyland SC, for Long, said whilst it was a terrible crime, her client played a lesser role as he was the person seen running away.
“It is fair to say it was not Long who pulled the unfortunate lady to the ground,” she said. Ms Hyland added that her client also suffered from drug addiction.
The court heard both men had dysfunctional upbringings.
Seamus Roche SC, for Fitzgerald, said his client had “significant addiction issues” to hard drugs, including heroin and crack cocaine.
In sentencing both men to nine years in prison, Judge Boyle said they had preyed on a “brave and courageous lady”. She said the victim was a “sprightly” woman, who had seen her life turned upside down overnight.
She described the offence as being at the “higher end of robbery” and noted that although Long played a lesser role in the offence, it was still part of a “joint enterprise”. The judge also noted that the crime was committed when Long was on a suspended sentence for another offence.