Man attacked 'heroic' pensioner who tried to stop him stealing from collection box

A HEROIN addict subjected an heroic 80-year-old man who tried to prevent him from stealing from a Church collection box to a cowardly attack – gouging his eye, kicking him in the groin and then stamping on his glasses.

The assault by David O’Donovan (41) on the pensioner only ended when a woman attending Mass was so appalled she ran over to bravely intervene.

O’Donovan of Glendalough, Grenville Place, Cork pleaded guilty to assault causing harm to a Robert Duggan (80) who was working as a volunteer at St Augustine’s Church in Cork city centre.

Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard that Mr Duggan, a volunteer at St Augustine’s for almost 70 years, heroically challenged a man who he spotted trying to break in to a collection box while Mass was being celebrated.

Judge Sean O’Donnabhain was told by Det Garda Padraig Harrington that the incident unfolded at 8:30pm on March 24 last at St Augustine’s Church on the Grand Parade.

Mr Duggan went over to ask a man interfering with the collection box to stop what he was doing.

“He said words to the effect of: ‘He was in a house of God and to stop it’. But he (O’Donovan) told him: ‘F*** you and f*** the Church. He then counted down, four, three, two, one and then kicked Mr Duggan in the groin.”

When the pensioner fell to the ground, he gouged his eye and then stamped on his glasses.

O’Donovan fled the scene when a Polish Mass goer ran over to protect the pensioner.

The defendant, who has a chronic heroin problem, was later spotted by gardaí in a nearby supermarket as they went to check CCTV security camera footage in relation to the assault.

The court was told that O’Donovan was so under the influence of drink and drugs his interview session had to be suspended at the Bridewell Garda station and he had to be brought to the Mercy University Hospital (MUH).

Mr Duggan, who walked to the witness box with the aid of a cane, told the court he had never before experienced such treatment.

“I have been working as a volunteer in St Augustine’s for almost 70 years,” he said.

“This has knocked my confidence. He stuck his thumb in my eye and he kicked me in the groin.”

Mr Duggan said he was particularly upset because the defendant had deliberately stamped on his glasses when they were knocked from his face and were lying on the ground and he was totally helpless.

The pensioner suffered a cut to his eye and was deeply shocked by his ordeal.

He waited seven hours for assessment at MUH but the hospital was so busy he had to leave without treatment and return the following day.

He no longer workers as a volunteer at the church, a job he admitted he loved.

“In the past I have seen people with drink, people with drugs and people who were depressed.”

But he stressed he never experienced anything like what happened to him on March 24.

Jane Hyland BL, for the State, said the defendant comes from a very respectable family but is estranged from them.

He never came to garda attention until he was 32.

Due to drink and drug abuse problems, he now has a total of 22 convictions though none, until now, involved any violence.

O’Donovan was, for a time, homeless in Cork.

The St Augustine’s attack was described as “very cowardly” though the court was told O’Donovan has absolutely no recollection of it.

Nikki O’Sullivan BL, for the defence, said O’Donovan deeply regretted what had happened.

He is a chronic heroin addict who is currently on methadone maintenance. The 41-year-old is currently receiving assistance for his addiction problems.

Judge O’Donnabhain said he wanted to structure a sentence so as to take into account any addiction and psychiatric issues which may be involved.

He directed that a report be prepared by the defendant’s addiction counsellor for the court.

Judge O’Donnabhain remanded O’Donovan in custody to be sentenced before Cork Circuit Criminal Court on November 23 next.

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