‘Put your hands in front or I’ll kill you’

An apprentice jockey who followed a student, bringing with him duct tape and scissors, told gardaí he was angry after she rejected his sexual advances, that he was into bondage, and that he could not control his urges.

The now 19-year-old said she had believed she was going to die.

Tralee Circuit Criminal Court heard that Maurice Fitzgerald, aged 23, of Abbeyview, Buttevant, Co Cork, had earlier pleaded guilty to four charges in connection with the incident in Tralee last September.

He was on bail in connection with a sexual assault of a similar nature in Tipperary at the time.

The sentencing hearing heard Fitzgerald met the student, who had separated from her friends and was alone, at around 2am outside a nightclub in Tralee on September 20, 2015. He told the girl there was a party in his house and she could sleep in the spare room. However, there was no party and after he made sexual advances towards her, she left.

She had walked around a mile and a half along the Dan Spring/Dingle road when she heard footsteps, Sgt Gary Carroll outlined to prosecutor Tom Rice.

“He ran up to her and the violence started straight away,” said Sgt Carroll. “He caught her in a headlock and pushed her into the ditch and she tried to fight him off.”

Fitzgerald told her to “put your hands in front of you or I’ll kill you fucking now”, the garda said.

At this point, she saw the roll of duct tape and there was a scissors in his jacket.

He proceeded to put his hands around her neck and tried to choke her.

It was about 3.50am. Two people returning to Tralee from work at a Dingle nightclub came upon the scene and Fitzgerald fled and hid near a river.

Gardaí located him shortly afterwards.

He had been wearing a hoodie and had his face covered, and the girl had not realised until that point this was the person who earlier offered to help her.

Gardaí arrested him and seized his iPhone, on which he had searched the words ‘girl’, ‘taped’, and ‘gagged’ hours before the incident.

Fitzgerald made startling admissions to gardaí. He had been angry because she had rejected his sexual advances and he had followed her, attacking her from behind. He told gardaí he could not control his urges and that he was “into bondage”. He would not have stopped only he was disturbed, he said.

He pleaded guilty to false imprisonment, assault causing harm, and possession of a weapon at the location on the Dingle road on September 20. He also pleaded guilty to an offence of sexual assault at his house in Tralee.

In her victim impact statement, read by Sgt Carroll, the student said she had thought she was going to die.

“I honestly believed I was going to die in a terrifying, brutal way,” she said. “This was the kind of thing you read about in a newspaper never expecting it to happen to you.”

She had nightmares, had lost trust in people, and blamed herself for being gullible.

“I knew it was all over if I let him tie my hands together,” she said.

Sgt Carroll, answering Mr Rice, said he believed the motivation for the attack was sexual. “Mr Fitzgerald is a serious threat to women of all ages,” the garda said.

Brian McInerney, defending, said his client wished to apologise “in the most abject terms”.

He was at a loss to explain his actions.

His client had gone to the UK at the age of 17 to train as a national hunt jockey and had suffered “a multiplicity of injuries” in falls, including head injuries and a number of concussions.

He had started drinking heavily in the UK and had difficulties with substance abuse, and had returned home. After the Clonmel incident he had found it difficult to get work but had managed to get a job in a stud farm in Tralee, just two weeks prior to the incident.

Fitzgerald was remanded in custody and the matter was adjourned to July.


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