An 11-year sentence was imposed yesterday 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.
The shooter, Gavin Sheehan, chose his sentencing hearing yesterday as the moment to reveal that he was — for a period of two years — a garda informer tipping them off about drug dealers, gun dealers and criminals in general.
Sheehan, aged 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 vessel; 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 CCTV showed him getting angry as he rummaged through a bin not finding the Smith and Wesson gun where he had left it and instead finding it in the next bin where someone else had placed it.
Commenting on the accused’s appearance 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 said that a lot was made by the defence of the fact the Garda evidence on 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.
“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.
The judge imposed a sentence of 14 years with the last three suspended. The judge did not refer to Sheehan’s revelation of being a garda informer.
Vincent Heneghan SC, defending, made certain revelations during questioning of Det Sgt Denis Lynch yesterday. 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,” said Mr Heneghan.
“During that period of time he was an informer for [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.”
Mr Heneghan said the defendant was moved between three prisons since he was remanded in custody for this case. He said: “That is for his own safety.”
Mr Heneghan said the accused has a partner and baby and was 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.
Sheehan, aged 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 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,” she said.
“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.”
The jury was told there was a dispute going on between Gavin Sheehan and members of the Cunningham family of 37 Hollywood estate.
On Saturday, May 14, Dylan Cunningham was in Dino’s chipper in Blackpool with Ms Sheehan, when Gavin Sheehan came in and punched Mr 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, seriously wounding Ms Sheehan.
Gavin Sheehan 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.
Liam Heylin - Victim impact statement of Ciara Sheehan
“May 14, 2016 was the night my life changed for the worst. The night I got shot, all that went through my head was that I was going to die. I was lying on the floor and they were surrounding me, it was like something out of a movie.
“It was an experience I will never in my life forget. Since this has happened to me I am completely broken, I am a different person, I’m not the happy Ciara I was this time last year. I have no confidence in myself anymore. When I look in the mirror every morning all I can see is the big ugly scar on the side of my neck.
“Sometimes when I’m talking to people I can feel them looking at the scar and I get really uncomfortable.
“Some nights I cannot sleep at it all runs through my head. I get flashbacks. This has also affected my work because of no sleep. I have been suffering a lot of anxiety attacks. Last week I got three in one day and I had to leave work early. That has happened more than once.
“I miss days of work because of psychiatric appointments which I have to attend every month.
“I have been prescribed anti-depressant and relaxing tablets which I don’t want to be taking but they sometimes help get over the panic attacks.
“I received a Christmas card from Gavin. That’s the last thing I wanted to see. That set me back a lot and I couldn’t go to work that day because I was too upset. All I want to do is get back to the old me, the old Ciara. I am sick of being depressed all the time. I can never be happy and it comes between me and my friends and family. I have lost all trust since this happened. I feel people are looking at me and talking about me. I’m so paranoid at times. If I hear loud bangs I get a fright. The last time I heard a loud bang it sounded like a gun and I instantly put my hand to my neck.
“I think no young girl should have to go through what I went through. I would not wish this on my worst enemy. I am going through torture, it feels like torture. My head feels like it’s going to explode sometimes. I am broken inside and inside my head. Even standing next to a window I never know what to expect.
“I hope this man Gavin Sheehan gets the help he really needs.”
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