A low level drug dealer was stabbed 16 times in his Co Offaly home and set on fire after his ex-girlfriend spread a false rumour that he was a garda informant.
The victim, Ciarán Murphy (29) was found in a dog cage in his home by a passer-by who noticed his cottage was in flames. He was left with life-threatening injuries after he suffered 96% burns from his neck down and multiple stab wounds including into his heart cavity.
Mr Murphy now has no ears and almost five years after the attack he is still bleeding from some of the wounds that cover his body.
Today David Keena (21) was remanded in continuing custody pending sentence later this month after he admitted that he was in the cottage when an older acquaintance, Shaun Groome (31) stabbed Mr Murphy and poured petrol over him.
Keena of Carrig Mor, Ballynacargy, Mullingar, Westmeath, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assault causing serious harm and criminal damage by way of arson at Mr Murphy's home on Coolcor, Rhode, Co Offaly on September 7, 2015.
He has 63 previous convictions for mainly road traffic offences but was sentenced to six years in prison in April 2017 at Mullingar Circuit Criminal Court for a drug offence.
Anne Rowland SC, defending said that her client was accepting responsibility on the basis that he aided and abetted Mr Groome (31) of Ballinderry, Mullingar, Westmeath, who has yet to be prosecuted for his role as there is an outstanding warrant for his arrest.
Mr Groome had been charged with assault causing serious harm at a sitting in Tullamore District Court in November 2015.
Detective Sergeant Caroline Lyng agreed with Garrett McCormack BL, prosecuting, that Mr Murphy's former girlfriend was high on drugs when she informed Mr Groome that the victim was a garda informant.
Det Sgt Lyng confirmed that there was no truth at all to this but the woman was concerned that Mr Murphy was in danger of being attacked and believed that by spreading this rumour she was protecting him.
She said that Mr Murphy was known to local gardaí at the time as a low level drug dealer.
Det Sgt Lyng agreed with Ms Rowland that Mr Murphy was being supplied with drugs by a man named in court as “Mr C”. “Mr C” died unexpectedly and a drug debt of €2,500 that Mr Murphy owed him, was passed on to Mr Groome.
Mr Groome then began supplying Mr Murphy with cannabis and tablets and Mr Murphy, unable to pay for the drugs or the earlier debt, gave the man one of his dogs as part-payment.
Det Sgt Lyng agreed with Ms Rowland that on the night of the attack, Murphy's former girlfriend told some people in a pub she was socialising with that Mr Murphy was a garda informant. She was then told that she needed to come into town “to talk to a friend of Mr C's”.
The Det Sgt accepted a suggestion from counsel that the woman was then “frogmarched” into Mulligar to speak to Mr Groome. She was put into the back of a car and told the man that Mr Murphy was a garda informant and he thanked her for telling him.
“Then he was clearly vent on revenge,” Ms Rowland said referring to the fact that Mr Groome and Keena then drove out to Mr Murphy's home, after buying a jerry can of petrol en route.
In a victim impact statement read out in court by Mr McCormack, Mr Murphy stated that he was viciously attacked that night and left to die alone. He said he had at one stage during his medical treatment been given a one percent chance of survival.
He said there were times he wished he had not survived. He is “consumed” with fear, anxiety, panic attacks and his sleep pattern has never recovered.
Mr Murphy said he is in constant pain and left with mental scarring. He lost his hair and both ears and wears beanie hats 24/7 to protect himself from “public stares” and from his own reflection. He said he will never now be able to afford his own home or car because he is unemployable and described how his relationship with his young son has suffered.
“It breaks my heart that I will never be able to play football, hurling or swim with him,” Mr Murphy continued. He said the attack will “forever be etched in my mind”.
Judge Karen O'Connor adjourned the case to July 28, 2020 for sentence.
Det Sgt Lyng said Mr Murphy was taken to Tullamore Regional Hospital but later transferred to St James's Hospital in Dublin.
He had to have six blood transfusions in the ambulance on his way there. He was found to be suffering from “profound hyperthermia” and was considered to have life threatening injuries. He had 16 stab wounds and had to undergo multiple emergency surgeries and skin grants.
Mr Murphy was in hospital from September 2015 to June 2016 and was re-admitted in July 2017 when some wounds deteriorated, resulting in further surgeries and an additional one month in hospital.
Keena was nominated as a suspect and made a voluntary statement three days later. He agreed that he had travelled out to Mr Murphy's house and acknowledged that he could be seen on CCTV footage stopping to buy petrol.
He claimed that when he got out to the house, he had a joint and then went to the bathroom upstairs. He heard an argument downstairs and returned to find Mr Murphy on fire.
Det Sgt Lyng said gardaí later established that there was no bathroom in the upstairs of Mr Murphy's home.
She said clothing, matching that worn by Keena and Mr Groome from the footage from the petrol station was later discovered discarded at exit 12 on the M4 for Kinnegad.
Both men were spotted out socialising in Mullingar that night wearing different clothing and Det Sgt Lyng said the gardaí believe they changed before driving out to Mr Murphy's home.
Keena later admitted to gardaí that they had thrown away their burnt clothing on their way back to Mullingar.
Det Sgt Lyng confirmed that Keena was interviewed seven times and told Mr McCormack that he was not co-operative during questioning.
“At one stage he ripped up Mr Murphy's statement and said 'You are hardly going to take the word of a vegetable?'”, Det Sgt Lyng said.
Mr Murphy later made a statement to gardaí confirming that Mr Groome stabbed him a number of times before putting petrol on him. He didn't know Keena at the time and described him as “the young fella” claiming that he poured petrol on a stove increasing the veracity of the fire.
He also claimed that Keena picked up a knife at one stage but Mr Groome told him it was too small.
Ms Rowland told Judge O'Connor that her client denies that he threw petrol onto the stove but accepts that he was there when Mr Murphy was attacked.
Det Sgt Lyng agreed with Ms Rowland that Mr Murphy didn't know Keena and that Mr Groome “is not available for prosecution at this stage”.
She accepted that in the months prior to the attack Keena had started to abuse cocaine and had moved to Mullingar to live with his mother. She was a good support to him but she has since died of cancer.
Det Sgt Lyng agreed that Keena had no other offences for crimes of violence but she was not aware that he was an enhanced prisoner in Casterea Prison. She confirmed that Keena was quite immature at the time of the attack.
Ms Rowland asked the court to accept that her client's youth and immaturity, while in the company of a much older person who was involved in serious drug dealing, “diminishes his culpability”.