A young woman has given evidence of taking what she thought was her last breath, as the teenager she met online tried to "choke the life" out of her before slashing her neck with a knife and leaving her for dead.
She was reading her victim impact statement at his sentence hearing for her attempted murder, saying she felt that the then 15-year-old was frustrated with himself for not having killed her.
“You destroyed my life,” she said through tears from the witness box of the Central Criminal Court today.
The boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had tried to murder the woman he met on social media, after suggesting they take a selfie at the water’s edge in Dun Laoghaire. There, he choked her to unconsciousness and then slashed her neck with a knife.
Gardaí later found a book of drawings in his bedroom, containing a sketch of someone being cut up with a knife. The words, ‘serial killer’, had been written on another page.
He pleaded guilty to attempting to murder the woman on December 23, 2017, at Sea Front, Queen’s Road, Dun Laoghaire. The 16-year-old was accompanied to court by his parents, who sat beside him in the area of the room reserved for accused people.
Detective Garda Daniel Treacy told Paul Burns SC, prosecuting, that the accused had met his victim on the Whisper social media app.
He was 15 years old at the time, and his victim was 25. However, he told her that he was 19. They exchanged ordinary photographs to confirm that they were real people.
He asked her to participate in a threesome but she declined, and made it clear that she wasn’t interested in any form of a sexual relationship.
He disclosed his name and certain family details and that he was attending psychiatrists for therapy, him having depression, suicidal and intrusive thoughts.
He told her that he couldn’t commit to girls.
“It’s like being a psychopath. You just don’t feel it,” he wrote, saying he was ‘feeling it for the first time’.
He stated that he hadn’t developed feelings for anyone and hadn’t had a crush on anyone.
They arranged to meet in Dun Laoghaire on 23rd December, with him saying he would bring her to a secret spot.
She jokingly said it sounded like he was going to murder her. He replied that he didn’t think he could murder her.
They met at the entrance to Dun Laoghaire Shopping Centre shortly after noon that day and walked to York Road, where the accused asked her to go into a vacant house. She declined.
It was boarded up anyway, so he suggested another abandoned house. She again said no.
They walked to the promenade and he suggested going into the old disused baths. She declined.
“At his request, they went down to the water’s edge to take a selfie,” testified D Gda Treacy.
She raised her hand to defend herself and suffered significant lacerations as a result. He told her to stop screaming in a calm and controlled voice.
She passed out due to the stranglehold. When she came around, she was lying on the ground near the water’s edge, her hand was bleeding and there was blood around her head. Her clothes had been cut.
She managed to get to her feet and take a few steps but collapsed. Walkers noticed her and came to her assistance. She was unable to speak, very pale, her lips had gone blue and the walkers thought she going to die.
She was taken to to St Vincent's Hospital, where she was found to have a 10cm-deep midline neck laceration, which penetrated her trachea.
She also had a wound to her thumb along with one to her right arm, which was consistent with a defensive stab injury. She had a fast heart rate and low blood pressure, consistent with significant blood loss. She had other symptoms that showed she probably had blood in her lungs.
She had to be put into a medically-induced coma and underwent emergency surgery.
Although she was unable to speak that day, she managed to speak with assistance the following day. She showed gardai the communications she’d had with the accused and indicated that the person in the photos was her attacker.
Through examination of her phone, found in her handbag at the scene, gardai were able to identify the attacker as the accused. They searched his home the following day.
When they entered his bedroom, he stated: “This is about the stabbing of that girl in Dun Laoghaire. I haven't got the knife. I threw it in the ocean.”
The gardai seized a Leinster rugby backpack and a coat, both with suspected blood staining on them. They also seized a book of drawings, produced to the witness in court.
It contained various writings and sketches, including an entry from December 17, showing someone being cut up with a knife. There was also a written entry on a date in November 2017, where there was reference to a therapist, along with the words, ‘serial killer might also be self deprecator might also be self praiser’.
He was arrested and taken to Dun Laoghaire Garda Station, where he exercised his right to silence throughout his five interviews.
The Whisper app had been deleted off his phone around midnight on Christmas Eve; the blood on his backpack matched that of his victim.
“There was a huge amount of pooling of congealed blood, so it was reckoned she was there a while before she came round,” said the detective of the victim, who lives in south Dublin with her family.
Her attacker also lived with his family in South Dublin. His school attendance had been sporadic, possibly due to mental health issues, confirmed the detective.
The young woman then entered the witness box to deliver a highly emotional victim impact statement, much of which was directed at her attacker, who was sitting nearby.
It detailed the slash wound across her neck, which went 75% of the way through her windpipe, damaged her voice box and left scarring. Tendons in her hand were also severed while she was unconscious.
She began to cry when asked to read about the psychological effects the crime had on her. She said that she was now a different person, who struggled to trust others and was afraid of teenage boys.
She no longer goes out much, feeling that people are looking at her neck scar.
She said the events of that day had "destroyed my life".
“My happiness has been taken as the last time I met (him) he was strangling me, held a knife to my face. I remember him calmly whispering ‘stop screaming, stop screaming’,” she said.
“A tear rolled down my cheek as I took what I thought was going to be my last breath as he choked the life out of me,” she continued. “I remember telling you ‘I’m sorry’. I was apologising to you for you trying to kill me.”
This, she said, she could not understand.
She described being wet and cold with blood, and could see the inner parts of her hand.
“I felt really sick from the sight of flesh,” she said. “You had left me for dead.”
She said that she had tried to cry for help but nothing came out.
“I knew I couldn’t be seen where I was lying and knew I had to get out of there to survive,” she explained. “I walked up to higher ground as I was determined not to die.”
She said that her body had struggled to walk up the path.
“It was difficult maintaining my breathing after getting stabbed in the neck,” she said.
She had soon collapsed from blood loss and was later told that she had lost four litres.
“Only for him, you would have succeeded in my death,” she said of the passer-by, who had found her.
“When I could not speak, I put my hand to my neck and I realised there was a gap in my neck,” she explained.
‘On the brink of death’, she ‘remained calm as I did not wish to die’.
She had tried to tell the gardai her attacker’s name but was powerless without her speech. She was panicked by the fact that she could cough through her neck with her mouth closed.
“I debated whether I was going to die because my body couldn't bear the physical trauma anymore,” she recalled. “Thank God I lost consciousness after this.”
She said that showing the gardaí the picture of her attacker had led to a cry of anguish from her.
“I was also tormented knowing my life nearly ended in your cruel hands,” she said.
She had also cried in fear of not waking up again, while in hospital.
“I knew you were so far away yet I could still feel your presence grabbing me from behind, frustrated at yourself for not actually killing me,” she said.
“The scars you inflicted on my neck and hand will forever be a reminder of your demonic actions,” she said.
She noted the number of times that he had tried to ‘lure’ her to isolated locations that day ‘in order to fulfill your urges’.
“Your persistence down at the water’s edge showed how determined you were to have me dead,” she said.
She recalled crying when she saw the damage to her thumb.
“I struggled to understand why it was necessary to stab my hand while I was unconscious. You destroyed my life,” she sobbed.
She said that, although she felt lucky to be alive, she was not prepared for the flashbacks.
“Going to the sea triggered it all again, your rough arms around me trying to take my life,” she said. “Why did you cut my throat and thumb when I was out cold and unconscious? You have taken my life and happiness and everything that goes with it.”
She said that her injuries would remind her of her attacker for the rest of her days. However, she was looking forward to the day she would be free of the tortures of her mind and past.
“All I can do is trust and believe, because the thought of this lasting for the rest of my life is intolerable,” she concluded.
Mr Justice Michael White commended her for the ‘tremendous courage’ she had shown in reading the statement herself.
He then adjourned the case until April 12, when he will make formal orders in relation to psychiatric or psychological reports.