The mother of a 20-year-old who died following an attack on a Tallaght footbridge has said she will never forgive those responsible for her son's death.
Six men and one woman were originally charged with murder and went on trial at the Central Criminal Court in October, after pleading not guilty. However, those charges were dropped on the 15th day of the trial, after they pleaded guilty to lesser charges and had their new pleas accepted.
Dale Creighton was assaulted at the footbridge over the Tallaght bypass between Saint Dominic’s Road and Greenhills Road four hours after he had rung in the new year. The court heard that there had been an allegation that the Tallaght man had stolen the woman’s mobile phone.
He died in hospital the following day. The cause of his death was blunt force injury to his head and face.
The seven accused, who are from Tallaght, had all rung in the new year in a local night club.
They are 23-year-old Aisling Burke and 28-year-old David Burke, both with a current address at Beechpark, Collinstown, Co Westmeath; Graham Palmer (26) with a current address at Park Avenue, Portarlington, Co Laois; Ross Callery (23) currently of Gortlum Cottages, Brittas, Co Dublin; James Reid (26) currently of Glen Aoibhinn, Gorey, Co Wexford; Jason Beresford (23) with an address at Coill Diarmuida, Ard a’ Laoi, Castledermot, Co Kildare; and Gerard Stevens (27) currently of Grosvenor Square, Rathmines in Dublin.
Each accused also initially pleaded not guilty to violent disorder at the footbridge. However Jason Beresford later changed his plea and pleaded guilty to the violent disorder charge.
Aisling Burke, a mother of one, has now pleaded guilty to violent disorder at the bridge that New Year’s Morning.
Graham Palmer, Ross Callery, Gerard Stevens, Jason Beresford and David Burke have now pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
James Reid has pleaded guilty to possession of a knife, which had a blade or was sharply pointed.
In the Central Criminal Court today, counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Sean Gillane SC, called Ms Helena Darcy, a friend of Dale Creighton’s mother Rhoda Smith, to read a victim impact statement on her behalf.
The court heard that Dale was the first born of Ms Smith’s two children and her only son.
“He grew up to be a lovely polite handsome young man with a stunning smile, he was quiet and shy. Dale did well in school and had just completed a springboard programme in Belfast, during this course you could see his confidence growing and he began to put a life plan in place,” she said.
Dale was “looking forward to starting a carpentry course in January and was getting excited about his upcoming 21st as he was planning to celebrate on holiday with his lifelong friends.”
Ms Smith said that Dale always celebrated New Year’s Eve with his family so it “came as a surprise when he decided to go out.”
Ms Smith said that her son texted her that night and she “rang him at the bells” and he told her his plans to meet up with his cousin in Crumlin and he would see her the next day.
The words “I love you” were the last words Ms Smith heard from her son.
The court heard that in the early hours of the morning of January 1, 2014 Ms Smith received a call to go to Tallaght hospital as Dale had been assaulted.
Shortly after Ms Smith arrived at the hospital she contacted her parents to also come.
“A decision was made to transfer him to Beaumont Hospital. I was allowed to see Dale for a few minutes, the sight of my son lying there will never be erased from my memory.
"His head and face had swollen to twice its size, none of his teeth were visible and I thought they had been knocked out. All we could do in Beaumont Hospital was watch and pray as we weren’t allow to touch Dale or even kiss away his pain,” she said.
The court heard that “in the midst of all this” Dale's family began to realise that he “was not going to pull through and no amount of written words can express the anguish we were going through at the time.”
“The torture and the fear that my son was put through that night will haunt me for the rest of my life. It is my first thought in the morning when I wake and my last at night when I finally fall asleep. I have nightmares about Dale on the bridge that night,” she said.
Ms Smith always told her son to run “if trouble ever breaks out….I didn’t think he listened. After seeing the CCTV footage I now know he did. He couldn’t get away."
Ms Smith said that her son’s death has taken “the pleasure out of everything” she used to enjoy.
“I now live in fear and with a constant twisted paranoia. I have become over protective of my daughter and I get into a panic if I cannot contact her. I watched her struggle through college these past three years,” she said.
The court heard that Dale shared a “special bond” with Ms Smith’s mother and they “were more like best friends.”
Ms Smith said: “My parents and family do everything to support me. My youngest sister had died four weeks before Dale. My parents had been raising her children the last few years before her death and Dale was always there to help out babysitting, he was more a big brother to them.
"We had to come home from hospital and explain to them that Dale was going to heaven to be with their mum but we could not find the words.”
After “all the trauma”, Dale's family were getting ready to make preparations for his funeral but they did not have “the dignity” to do that as there were two independent autopsies requested.
“This evasion of these autopsies took away any chance of holding him or kissing him goodbye. My son came home to us so fragile that once again we could not touch him. I will never forgive them for this,” she said.
Ms Smith said that “these people” have not “only taken away” her son from her, his sister, grandparents and friends, but by “cutting his life short so cruelly” they have taken away Dales chance of getting “married, becoming a father and growing old.”
“Leaving my mind constantly filled with ‘what if’s’and uncontrollable crying. So you see not only did Dale die on January 1, 2014, a part of us all died too.
"We in time will come to some sort of understanding of Dale dying but never the circumstances in which he died. A mother’s worst nightmare,” she said.