Such was the savage nature of an assault on a 61-year-old Limerick man, as he walked home late at night, he died 18 months later having never recovered from brain injuries which necessitated him getting 24-hour care, a court heard.

Some months after carryinig out the attack on Thomas Ryan, and while out on bail, Patrick Phelan, aged 24, of Galvone Road, Kennedy Park, Limerick burgled the home of another older man who lived alone and terrorised him.

Phelen was jailed yesterday for eight years at Limerick Circuit Court for assault causing serious harm to Mr Ryan, on July 10, 2013 and for a burglary carried out on November 2014.

Mr Ryan never recovered from what Judge Tom O’Donnell described as catastrophic injuries.

He died while in nursing home care in January 2015. While in care one of the few sentences he repeatedly was able to say was: “When am I going home?”

Mr Ryan was the eldest of 15. His mother died from a stroke after the attack and the family believed this was brought on by what had happened to her son.

Garda Garry Farrell told the court Mr Ryan was found by gardaí in an intoxicated state at around 1am on July 10, 2013 and brought to Roxboro Road station.

He was allowed out two hours later and while walking alone to his home he was attacked and left unconsious in a green open area at Kennedy Park.

The accused, Patrick Phelan, was one of the people who contacted gardaí. He told gardaí that he found Mr Ryan in an unconscious state.

Gardaí established from the custody record when Mr Ryan was in Roxboro Station that he had a gold watch and a satchel which were both missing when he was found unconscious.

Mr Ryan was rushed to hospital, but such were the severity of his head injuries, he never recovered and was subsequently transferred to a nursing home where he died in January 2015.

Gardai arrested Phelan after harvesting evidence from CCTV systems. This showed him walking with Mr Ryan before the attack. Phelen had initially claimed he first saw Mr Ryan when he came on him unconscious.

Forensic tests found Mr Ryan’s blood on Phelan’s runners.

In a victim inpact statement, a member of Mr Ryan’s family said he was the eldest of 15 who were all alive up to time of her brother’s death.

Their brother was a “quiet gentleman, the life and soul of the family and a great favourite uncle with his nephews and nieces”.

Their mother died from a stroke after the assault and the family believe this was brought on by what had happened to her eldest child.

Mr Ryan could not always recognise them when they went to visit him and he needed 24-hour full-time care.

Judge O’Donnell said Mr Ryan had been deprived of all independence as his condition after the attack deteriorated slowly.

Pictures of Mr Ryan before and after the assault, he said, when compared clearly showed Mr Ryan had lost every vestige of independence.

He said: “The catastrophic injuries he received left him an invalid for the rest of his life.”

Phelan carried out a burlary while out on bail for the attack during which he broke into the home of a man aged 64, knowing that his victim lived alone.

During the violent raid, he pinned the man against the wall. However, the victim managed to press a panic button he had and gardaí got to the scene and arrested Phelan a short time later.

Judge O’Donnell jailed Phelan for eight years for assault causing serious harm to Mr Ryan and three years consecutively for the burglary. He suspended the final three years of the 11-year sentence.


Family reaction

The family of 61-year-old Thomas Ryan, who was viciously assaulted while walking home, said his attacker will reflect on what he did and change during his eight years in jail.

Mr Ryan’s sister, Breda O’Callaghan, said: “How can somebody do that to an elderly man? He knew he was an elderly man and a small, very thin man who would not be able to defend himself... I hope he changes his ways... It devastates lives, these actions, and I just hope when he does come out he is a better person.”

She described her brother, the eldest of 15 who lived in London for 25 years, as a “gentleman who loved to sing” and recalled how he was unrecognisable after the attack. “It was horrendous when we got the news. I went with my daughter to intensive care, when I got there I didn’t recognise him his face was so swollen. He was in a coma at the time and they didn’t hold out much hope. He spent two months in hospital but then he had to go to a nursing home as he needed 24-hour care. It broke my mother’s heart, she aged overnight.

“My mother, who was 82, was a very lively woman who loved going out for her walks, but after this happened to Thomas she just sat at the fire. She used to say ‘how could anybody do that to an innocent person?’ She was just devastated. She just gave up on life and lasted six months afterwards.”


Dr Sarah Miller is the CEO of Dublin’s Rediscovery Centre, the national centre for the Circular Economy in Ireland. She has a degree in Biotechnology and a PHD in Environmental Science in Waste Conversion Technologies.‘We have to give people positive messages’

When I was pregnant with Joan, I knew she was a girl. We didn’t find out the gender of the baby, but I just knew. Or else, I so badly wanted a girl, I convinced myself that is exactly what we were having.Mum's the Word: I have a confession: I never wanted sons. I wanted daughters

What is it about the teenage years that are so problematic for families? Why does the teenage soul rage against the machine of the adult world?Learning Points: It’s not about the phone, it’s about you and your teen

Judy Collins is 80, and still touring. As she gets ready to return to Ireland, she tells Ellie O’Byrne about the songs that have mattered most in her incredible 60-year career.The songs that matter most to Judy Collins from her 60-year career

More From The Irish Examiner