Asylum-seeker jailed for five years

A Nigerian man who drove down Henry Street in Dublin at 60 mph knocking down shoppers like "skittles in a bowling alley" has been jailed for five years by Judge Elizabeth Dunne.

A Nigerian man who drove down Henry Street in Dublin at 60 mph knocking down shoppers like "skittles in a bowling alley" has been jailed for five years by Judge Elizabeth Dunne.

Jacob Odubajo sped down the crowded pedestrianised street without slowing or swerving to avoid people before ploughing into the back of a stationary construction van, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court was told .

The incident happened at lunch time and witnesses described a Ford Escort turning from O'Connell Street and the engine being revved. Horrified onlookers were thrown into the air before the final crash just outside Arnotts department store.

Sergeant Michael O'Sullivan said one witness described the scene as like a bowling alley with people being knocked over like skittles. Another said it looked like a bomb had gone off.

Ten people, in total, required hospital treatment following the incident, with two of these described as suffering serious injuries.

Sgt Sullivan said the scene that greeted him on his arrival at 1.05 pm was one of chaos and mayhem with people scattered around the street. Odubajo was restrained by security staff from nearby shops and arrested once the gardai had arrived.

Odubajo (36), from Clonliffe Road, Drumcondra, pleaded guilty to 10 counts of reckless endangerment and two counts of dangerous driving causing serious harm on October 18, 2001.

Judge Dunne said that the psychiatric report claimed Odubajo had received a letter on the morning of the incident refusing him asylum but the only explanation she heard in court was that he found it difficult to come to terms with the recent death of his mother, as well as that of his brother

and grandfather.

"I can only describe this incident as grevious wrongdoing and it is a miracle that more serious injury or even death did not occur," she said.

"No matter how tragic the personal circumstances of an accused may be, there is absolutely no justification for what occurred. This man has no mental illness, no handicap and no personality disorder and I'm finding it difficult to explain it.

"I don't accept the suggestion by the defence that it was more reckless than intentional. If you drive down a busy pedestrianised street at such speed it is only a natural assumption that injury to others will occur.

"What bothers me most is the significant distance that was covered and it is quite obvious that all the injured parties have been traumatised and some may be so for some time," Judge Dunne concluded.

An ashamed Odubajo got down on his knees outside the courtroom to beg for forgiveness from one of his victims, 17-year-old Paul Darigan, who had travelled up from Wexford to attend the hearing.

Mr Darigan doesn't remember the incident and suffered serious head and leg injuries, which were described as life-threatening. A brain scan discovered a contusion and there are concerns that a condition such as epilepsy could develop in the future.

He said he was in Dublin on the day with his school class to attend an open day at the Dublin Institute of Technology and was doing some shopping with friends afterwards when the incident happened.

"It was my Leaving Cert year, which will be one of the most important years of my life, but I definitely feel that my study was affected because I couldn't concentrate," he told Ms Pauline Whalley BL, prosecuting.

"I used to love playing hurling, soccer and cycling but I haven't been able to play any sports since. Any time I've tried my knee just dislocates.

"My social life has also suffered because just out walking with friends and my leg hurts. I'm also very conscious of cars driving behind me and my natural reaction is to jump whenever I hear them," he added.

Mr Darigan was one of the two people who received serious injuries. The other, Spaniard Pablo Busto who was heading back to work in Arnotts, was thrown up in the air by the speeding car, and suffered severe injuries to his left side. He has since returned to Spain.

All the other victims were treated in the Mater Hospital for injuries described as less serious.

Odubajo's sister, Nicola, told defence counsel Mr Patrick Gageby SC, that he was a quiet, gentle man who would never hurt a fly. He was seriously affected by the death of his mother, brother and grandfather in the months leading up to the incident.

His mother's death particularly hit him hard and he couldn't get home to Nigeria to attend the funeral. A video of the service she brought over to him in October was obviously very painful.

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