Mullingar District Court heard that when Michael Kelly, aged 24, of Auburn Avenue, Mullingar, Co Westmeath, painted “slut” and “whore” on the walls of a house in the town’s Beechfield estate this summer, he thought he was getting back at the girlfriend who refused to make up with him.
But the house belonged to an innocent victim, Mary McWeeney, who had no connection with Kelly or his ex-girlfriend.
Ms McWeeney was invited to attend court by Judge Seamus Hughes, who said he could not imagine what it must have been like for her to live with the mortification of waking up each morning to the damage created by Kelly, which totalled €3,500.
“Some of her neighbours may have been under the mistaken impression that the daubing of obnoxious terms may have had some basis in credibility,” he said.
When she appeared after lunch, Ms McWeeney she said she remains terrified and still cannot sleep at night in the home she shares with her 19-year-old son.
She said it will take time to get over the shame of “all that stuff he wrote” and that she still feels angry and upset.
“Sometimes neighbours can be cruel in the chatter that would take place behind your back,” Judge Hughes told Ms McWeeney.
Over eight weeks between June and August, Kelly mistakenly targeted Ms McWeeney’s home five times, slashing car tyres, breaking car windows, pouring red paint all over the car and throwing a rock through her window.
Across her house, garage and driveway in red paint he also wrote the words described by Judge Seamus Hughes as “obscene and obnoxious”.
Kelly’s ex-girlfriend, who was not named in court, knew nothing of the damage, Kelly said.
Solicitor Louis Kiernan said the break-up led his client back to an alcohol addiction from which he had previously recovered.
A former painter and decorator who has not worked in two years, Kelly committed the “payback” offences when his mind was “addled” by a cocktail of alcohol and valium, Mr Kiernan said.
He said Kelly wanted to apologise profusely to Ms McWeeney, who was “completely and utterly blameless”.
Kelly is attending Alcoholics Anonymous and had made an appointment to see a psychiatrist.
Describing the offences as “a terrible, terrible case”, the judge imposed a 10-month concurrent sentence on each of the five charges when Kelly was unable to offer his victim compensation.
The “serious acts of vandalism” also led to the judge activating an 11-month suspended sentence for drugs offences, bringing Kelly’s total time behind bars to 21 months.