An apprentice jockey has been sentenced to four years imprisonment for “a nightmare scenario” endured by a student whom he sexually assaulted and falsely imprisoned after meeting her outside a nightclub in Tralee, Co Kerry.

Maurice Fitzgerald, aged 23, of Abbeyview, Buttevant, Co Cork, followed the student, bringing with him duct tape and scissors, after she rejected his sexual advances at his flat where he had lured her.

On his arrest, he made what Judge Thomas E O’Donnell yesterday said were “startling admissions” with “sinister undertones”. He had told gardaí he was angry after the woman she rejected his sexual advances, that he was “into bondage”, and that he could not control his urges.

Fitzgerald earlier pleaded guilty to five counts, including false imprisonment, assault causing harm, possession of a weapon, and possession of duct tape on the Dingle road, Tralee, on September 20 last, as well as sexual assault at his flat in Tralee.

The victim had separated from her friends and, at around 2am, was outside a nightclub. She had lost her mobile phone. Fitzgerald approached her and she believed him to be “genuinely concerned for her safety”, Judge O’Donnell said as he handed down the sentence.

Fitzgerald said there was a party in his flat and there were two bedrooms and she could sleep in one. There was no party and during the night he entered her room, saying he could not sleep. He made sexual advances towards her, attempting to remove her clothes.

She got up and left at around 4am. She had walked about 2km along the Dan Spring/Dingle road when she heard footsteps behind her and became aware she was being followed. Fitzgerald was wearing a hoodie. He told her to put her hands in front of her and if she did not he would kill her. He placed duct tape around her.

Two men returning from late night work in Dingle came on the scene and called the gardaí. Only when gardaí found Fitzgerald in the bushes did the woman realise this was the man who had earlier pretended to help her. Duct tape and scissors were recovered.

On his iPhone, Fitzgerald had searched the words ‘girl’, ‘taped’, and ‘gagged’ hours before the incident.

“His interviews were startling in their admissions,” the judge said, adding that they contained “sinister undertones”.

Fitzgerald was on bail at the time for a similar sexual assault offence in Co Tipperary. He had been “a promising jockey” but had suffered injuries including to his head, said Judge O’Donnell.

“This was a frightening ordeal for the victim, a worst nightmare scenario,” the judge said. “There was an element of premeditation and calculation even though the victim was selected at random.”

Judge O’Donnell complimented the victim impact statement the court had heard previously as “erudite and profound”.

The student said she had thought she was going to die.

“This was the kind of thing you read about in a newspaper, never expecting it to happen to you,” she said. She had nightmares, had lost trust in people, and blamed herself for being gullible.

Fitzgerald is serving four years for the Tipperary sexual assault, in which he chanced upon a woman relieving herself in an open area. The judge sentenced him to a further four years to begin at the completion of his current sentence.

Tom Rice, prosecuting, asked the court to place Fitzgerald on the sex offenders’ register “for life”.


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