An eleven-year sentence has been imposed on a garda informer who shot a woman in the neck through the window of a house as it emerged that CCTV at the accused man’s own home was the key evidence convicting him, writes Liam Heylin of the Irish Examiner.
The accused, Gavin Sheehan, chose his sentencing hearing today as the moment to reveal that he had been - for a period of two years - a garda informer tipping them off about drug dealers, gun dealers and criminals in general.
Sheehan, 30, was sentenced by Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.
Judge Ó Donnabháin said: “This was quite an extraordinary case where Ciara Sheehan, 21, was in the house with the light on when a shot came through the window. The girl suffered a very serious injury. She was lucky on two counts - that the bullet did not interfere with a blood vessels or other vessels and secondly that she was attended to by extremely competent surgeons at the South Infirmary.
“The evidence was quite exceptional. The particular evidence which convicted him was CCTV garnered from his own surveillance at his home. He knew that was there. It was against the clear photographic evidence that he pleaded not guilty.”
The judge said the CCTV showed him clearly getting angry as he rummaged through a wheelie bin not finding the Smith and Wesson gun where he has left it and instead finding it in the next bin where someone else had placed it.
Commenting on the appearance of the accused on his own security footage, the judge said: “He was lording it, showing the level of his criminality by his own peacock display - it is on his CCTV camera.”
The judge wondered if Sheehan was hoping that there would be evidence of another person with a similar gun elsewhere on the north side of the same city at the same time doing what he was accused of doing. The judge said that a lot was made by the defence of the fact that the Garda evidence at times was inaccurate and would have had them arriving at the scene before the crime was committed, but he said this evidence was not relevant in light of the extent of the CCTV evidence.
Judge Ó Donnabháin said: “This man mercilessly and deliberately took the gun and fired it into a dwelling house he knew was lit and occupied. He did not co-operate. Since then he has not shown one shred of remorse. I have been looking for either remorse or some form of rehabilitation from the accused but I do not find it. In fact in truth it is thoroughly absent.
“He tried to blaggard the victim by sending her a Christmas card to add to her suffering. That is reprehensible behaviour,” the judge said, wondering how he could send this card to the victim at a time when he was remanded in prison.
The judge imposed a sentence of 14 years with the last three years suspended. The judge did not refer to Sheehan’s revelation of being a garda informer.
Vincent Heneghan defence senior counsel made certain revelations during questioning of Detective Sergeant Denis Lynch today. The detective said he was not in a position to answer the suggestions being made. Mr Heneghan said he had specific instructions to make them.
He referred to a dispute between Sheehan and a named party after a martial arts exhibition in Cork, after which Sheehan’s parents’ home and car were subject to attacks, his mother to assault and his father to threats on his life.
“I have certain instructions… that he was acting as an informer to An Garda Síochána for two years up to the Christmas of 2015. During that period of time he was an informer for (Christian name) at Mayfield garda station, an informer who acted and gave information to gardaí. He gave names of people involved in the drugs trade, gun trade and criminality in general. His co-operation ceased around Christmas 2015,” Mr Heneghan said.
The senior counsel said the defendant had been moved between three different prisons since he was remanded in custody for this case. He said: “That is for his own safety.”
Mr Heneghan said the accused had a partner and baby and was also a great source of support to his parents.
Det. Sgt. Lynch said that of Sheehan’s 72 previous convictions, 15 were serious enough to be dealt with at circuit court level. He had four for assault causing harm, three for assault and seven for robbery.
Unanimous guilty verdicts were delivered by the jury in November at the end of Sheehan’s trial for shooting a young woman in the neck through the front window of a house in Cork.
Gavin Sheehan, 30, of 7 Laurel Ridge, Shanakiel, Cork, denied the four charges against him related to possessing and firing the gun and most significantly, seriously injuring the young woman.
Ciara Sheehan - who is no relation to the Gavin Sheehan - addressed the jury directly in the trial describing what it felt like to be shot in the neck.
“We were talking in the front room. I was standing in front of the window. I heard a loud bang. We ran towards the kitchen. I felt my throat was getting all tight, my face was burning. I touched my neck, there was blood on my hands. That is when I realised I got shot in the neck. Dylan (her boyfriend, Dylan Cunningham) brought me to his mam’s car in the back and we drove to the CUH. I had surgery twice, the bullet was still stuck in neck. I was five or six days in hospital,” Ms Sheehan testified.
There was no witness to say they saw Gavin Sheehan firing the shot. The prosecution case was built on circumstantial evidence.
Some of the CCTV evidence came from a camera the accused man had on the outside of his own home. This showed him with a gun. It also showed him coming and going at relevant times.
A message from Sheehan’s phone was also put in evidence. It said, “I am packing well.” Det. Sgt. Lynch said today this was taken to be a reference to carrying a loaded firearm.
Two neighbouring estates on the northern side of Cork city between Blarney Road and Harbour View Road, namely Laurel Ridge and Hollywood estate, formed the backdrop to much of the disputed action in this case. The jury was told that there was a dispute going on between Gavin Sheehan and members of the Cunningham family of 37 Hollywood estate.
On Saturday evening, May 14, Dylan Cunningham was in Dino’s chipper in Blackpool with his girlfriend, Ciara Sheehan, when Gavin Sheehan came in and punched Dylan Cunningham.
At around midnight there was a series of events including the smashing of windows at 37 Hollywood estate and 7 Laurel Ridge. It culminated in the shot being fired through the window of 37 Hollywood estate, seriously wounding Ciara Sheehan.
He was found guilty that at his home at Laurel Ridge on the May 15 he had a Smith and Wesson 60.96 semi-automatic firearm, discharging it being reckless as to whether any person was injured or not on Sunday, May 15, at Hollywood estate, assault causing serious harm to Ciara Sheehan, and the related charge of having ammunition. Before the trial commenced he pleaded guilty to two criminal damage charges where he caused criminal damage to the front windows of 57 Harbour View Road, and also damaged the windows of this householder’s car.