By Sonya McLean and Brion Hoban
A 21-year-old man who bundled a pensioner into the boot of his car while she was out walking early on a winter’s morning has been jailed for six years.
The court heard through the 70-year-old woman’s victim statement that she looked into Martin Gallagher’s face as “I lay in that boot. I was afraid for my life.”
She was walking along a Dublin Street at around 7.30am on a January morning when Gallagher grabbed her from behind and threw her into the open boot of his parked vehicle.
He made several attempts to close the boot on the woman, slamming it onto her shins, but she continued to sit back up and he failed to shut it.
Gallagher then pulled the woman out of the boot and attempted to put her into the front of the car but she continued to scream and fight him off. He ultimately threw her against a wall, smashing her head off it before he sped off in the vehicle.
Gallagher later told gardaí in interview that the attack was “a joke that went wrong”.
He said he had been drinking all the previous day and he had mistaken the woman as she walked by for his friend “Alex”. He said he thought it would be funny to give Alex a fright and throw him into the boot of his car. He got a fright when he realised the person was a girl and said he pushed her to one side.
His counsel said her client has a very limited intellectual capacity and was “intoxicated to an extraordinary extent” that morning. She said he is “desperately sad for what he has done” and he knows he “has to take the medicine” from the court.
Gallagher, of Rusheeny Avenue, Hartstown, Dublin 15 pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assault causing harm and false imprisonment at Blackhorse Avenue, Dublin on January 6, 2020. He has one previous conviction for speeding.
Judge Martin Nolan had adjourned the case overnight to allow him time to consider it.
He said today that this was “a terrifying experience” for the woman and the man attempted to “kidnap” her. He said it seems it is “a pretty sinister crime” and that “we do not know what was going on in his mind”.
Judge Nolan said he found Gallagher’s explanation for the crime “implausible” and disregarded it.
He noted that the accused is at a low-level of intellectual ability, but said there is no doubt that the accused “is bright enough to know the difference between right and wrong”.
He said Gallagher deserved “a pretty long” time in custody and sentenced him to six years imprisonment.
After passing sentence, Judge Nolan told the woman, who was present in court, that she “behaved very bravely” and he thinks she surprised the accused with her “resilience and strength”. He said he hoped she got over the incident and wished her luck.
Detective Sergeant Maeve Ward was nominated by the woman to read out her victim impact statement in which she said that her life changed that day in a way that she never thought it would.
The former swimming teacher, who was acting as full-time carer for her husband who had dementia, would regularly get up early to go for a walk before her husband would wake. Her husband died in October last year.
She said that God was on her side that day and he knew that she had to get out of the car boot. She said she can still to this day feel the pain from being thrown to the ground by Gallagher before he sped off in the car.
She said she still has scars on her shins from where he repeatedly tried to slam the boot on her and her face was left “black and blue” from the struggle.
For a long time, she could not walk because of the pain in her shin bones and she had internal bruising in her chest from Gallagher trying to push her back into the boot.
The woman said when she walks outside now “my heart jumps” every time a runner goes by. She suffers from nightmares.
She described Gallagher as waiting for her to walk past before he grabbed her from behind.
Referring to a passing motorist who stopped his car after he saw Gallagher struggling with what he thought was a child at the car, she said “only God knows what could have happened if that man had not seen my legs”.
The woman said that “everyday life is only a vision of what I was” and added that she suffers flashbacks many times a day.
She said her son returned home from abroad to care for both her and her husband as she was no longer able to meet the man’s needs.
“He (her husband) didn’t know why I was crying all the time. He was only used to seeing me smiling. I would play him music and he would give me the thumbs up,” the woman continued.
She described being happy before the attack, saying that she was a wife, a mother and a grandmother. She said she was a fit woman, having previously been a swimming teacher and was doing 10km walks and 2km swims before the attack. She said her level of fitness was the reason she “got out of that car boot”.
“He took me from behind. I looked into his face as I lay in that boot. I was afraid for my life,” she concluded her statement.