A judge has jailed for 15 years a Westmeath man he said had “murderous intent” during a brutal assault in which the victim was stabbed 16 times before being set alight.
Shaun Groome (32) told gardaí he had not been happy with the victim's response to the death of a close friend of his and said he hoped the injured party died.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard the garda view was the victim, Ciarán Murphy, was a low-level drug dealer and Groome was acting on misinformation that Mr Murphy was a garda informant.
Groome, of Ballinderry, Mullingar, Co Westmeath, pleaded guilty to one count of assault causing serious harm to Mr Murphy at Coolcor, Rhode, Co Offaly between September 6 and September 7, 2015.
He pleaded guilty to one count of criminal damage by way of arson on the same date.
Groome's co-accused, David Keena, was jailed in October for five years for his role in the attack.
Keena (21), of Carrig Mor, Ballynacargy, Mullingar, Co Westmeath, pleaded guilty to assault causing serious harm and criminal damage by way of arson. He was 17 at the time of the offence.
Judge Martin Nolan said Mr Murphy had been “basically incinerated” in the attack in which he incurred severe knife injuries and burns to 96% of his body.
Judge Nolan said it seemed to him that for whatever reason, Groome had “murderous intent” that night but noted he had pleaded guilty to the offence of assault causing serious harm.
He said the level of violence brought the offence into the “exceptional” category and set a headline sentence, absent mitigation, of 20 years imprisonment.
Judge Nolan said Groome seemed to be an intelligent man with prospects and a good father who regrets his behaviour and that he could live a productive life when he came out of prison.
He reduced the sentence to 15 years but said he did not see any reason to impose any suspended element. “I think if 15 years in prison does not reform him nothing will,” said Judge Nolan.
Gardai had tracked the movements of the men on CCTV prior to the attack as they purchased petrol in a “gerry can” before travelling to Mr Murphy's home in Rhode, Co Offaly, where he was stabbed 16 times before being set alight.
Mr Murphy had tried to save himself by jumping on Groome as he was leaving, causing Groome to sustain burns which he was later treated for in Belfast.
Mr Murphy was later found in a dog cage where it is believed he had crawled to try and quench the flames with water from the dog’s bowl. He spent a significant time in hospital with life threatening injuries, lost his ears and continues to suffer constant pain.
His victim impact statement was not read in open court but handed to Judge Nolan who read it and commented: “He has some constitution to be able to survive, that's all I can say.” Desmond Dockery SC, defending, outlined a letter of apology written by his client in which Groome said his actions had been triggered by misinformation and under the influence of drugs.
He said he was “consumed by shame” for what he had done and acknowledged that no excuse was good enough. “I hope some day you can find in your heart to forgive me,” wrote Groome.
Garrett McCormack BL, prosecuting, told Judge Nolan that the Director of Public Prosecution’s view was this case fell into the “exceptional” range and that Groome was the main instigator with greater involvement.