A Czech national has today been given a mandatory life sentence by Mr Justice Liam McKechnie for murdering a Longford mother last year and a concurrent 13-year term for raping her on the same occasion.
David Brozovsky (aged 19) with an address at Grian Ard, Ard na Casa, Longford pleaded guilty to raping and murdering 37-year-old Sharon Coughlan at Great Water Street, Longford on September 15, 2007.
When he was being escorted out of the Central Criminal Court by Prison Service officers, Brozovsky turned to family members and friends of his victim and said: "I’m sorry."
Earlier, Detective Sergeant Ray McMahon told prosecuting counsel, Ms Isobel Kennedy SC, that Brozovsky came to Ireland in 2006.
He had 25 previous convictions in the Czech Republic for theft and extortion and two in Belgium for theft and aggravated theft.
In a victim impact statement members of the dead woman’s family said: "Our family chain is broken forever. Our life will never be the same again."
They said her now five-year-old son still asks schoolyard friends to help him find his mammy and her 10-year-old daughter suffers nightmares.
Det Sgt McMahon said CCTV footage showed the murdered woman shopping in the nearby Tesco store at around 4.30pm that evening and then walking in her direction home.
Her 10-year-old daughter returned from swimming at 7pm and when she could not find her mother she contacted her aunts but a search proved fruitless.
Ms Coughlan’s body was found later under the bath in the house at Great Water Street after the landlord alerted gardaí. She had been strangled.
Det Sgt McMahon said Ms Coughlan’s mobile phone valued €230, two packets of Mayfair cigarettes and €100 cash were stolen from her handbag. Two days later, the same phone began to be used with a different number and investigations led to father-of-one Brozovsky.
He made admissions about the crimes and said: "I am sorry for what I did, but I was on drugs."
It was revealed he had given the phone to another person as part payment of a debt. Western Union confirmed his claim to gardaí that he had sent €60 from the €100 he stole from the dead woman to his home where his girlfriend and their child now live.
Det Sgt McMahon told Ms Kennedy (with Ms Anne B Rowland BL) that Brozovsky said he had been in the house before "to do drugs" and had broken into it that evening by pushing a back door before him. He said he saw Ms Coughlan pass by on her way to Tesco and waited for her return.
Brozovsky said he pulled her into the house to steal her bag. He raped her first and then strangled her for fear she could reveal his identity.
He said she was crying out: "Why are you doing this?" as he began to strangle her. When he found she was dead he pulled her body upstairs and placed a cover over it under the bath.
Det Sgt McMahon said Brozovsky’s fingerprint was found on the cover and his DNA profile matched semen samples taken from Ms Coughlan.
Brozovsky had been at a party in his home and was seen leaving it in a drunken state at about 1 or 2am on September 15, 2007 having drank vodka. He returned there at about 5pm that day and had a shower.
Ms Brenda Coughlan, a sister of the dead woman broke down while reading a victim impact statement prepared by the family and was helped by her sisters, Karen, who read portion of it, and Orla.
The family members said their lives changed forever on September 15, 2007 with the death of their eldest sister who "had never shown malice to anyone".
"We waited and prayed she would return home that evening but believed something terrible had happened. We saw her the next night in the morgue and the look of terror on her face will haunt us forever."
She was the mother "of two beautiful children and she kissed both goodbye that day not knowing she would never see them again" and the hardest thing for the family was telling them she was never coming back.
"They still cannot understand why she will never be back," the statement read.
Her 10-year-old daughter suffered nightmares now and on his fifth birthday her son cried: "Oh mum I’m five now and you missed my birthday."
Mr Justice McKechnie said he could not think of two more gruesome crimes.
"It was a mindless, utterly barbaric, savage attack and I really have no words of comfort to say to the grieving family," he said.
He said the late Ms Coughlan was by all accounts a kind, generous person and hard working and her death in the way it happened was "an absolute tragedy".
Mr Justice McKechnie said it would be one thing for her children growing up if she had died naturally but the manner of her death was appalling. The only thing in his favour was his early guilty plea.
Mr Justice McKechnie said that were it not for the jurisprudence practised in such a case, he would have been inclined to impose a sentence for the rape with a consecutive mandatory life sentence for the murder.