Man jumped into canal to save pet rat

Upper Canal Road

A drunken chef jumped into the canal to rescue his pet rat which had escaped from his pocket into the water.

Gardai called to the scene by concerned passers-by found Dawid Szerner (39), with former addresses in Lurgan Park, Renmore, and the Fairgreen Hostel, back on dry land but soaking wet and very intoxicated.

Szerner, who has since moved to Mallow in Co Cork, appeared before Galway District Court this week where he denied he was intoxicated or that he breached the peace by engaging in threatening, abusive and insulting words or behaviour towards two Gardai at Upper Canal Road on September 6 last year.

He also denied two additional charges of refusing to leave the area when directed to do so by a Gardaí and of resisting arrest on the same occasion.

The accused did plead guilty to separate charges of being intoxicated in public and to breaching the peace at Shop Street on January 21 last.

Garda Anne-Marie Conroy told the hearing she and Garda Carmel Higgins responded to a call at 6.10pm on September 6 last year that a male had entered the water at Canal Road.

They arrived at the scene to find the accused out of the water.  He was intoxicated and became very abusive and aggressive towards Garda Conroy when she asked if he was okay and then asked for his details.

“He called us pigs and f**kers and everything else under the sun,”   Garda Conroy said.

Szerner remained very aggressive and had to be restrained by both Gardai.  All three fell to the ground as both Gardai tried to hang onto him.

Another passer-by became concerned for their safety and rang the Garda Station to send reinforcements.  Two male Gardaí arrived on the scene and, between them, the four Gardaí managed to effect an arrest.

In reply to defence solicitor, John Martin during cross-examination, Garda Conroy said Szerner had a friend with him at the time who was sober, but Szerner refused to leave the area for the Gardai and go home with his friend.

“He had a rat in his pocket which jumped out of his pocket into the water and he jumped in to retrieve it,” Mr Martin explained.

Garda Conroy said Szerner had told her at the scene that he had wanted to release his pet rat into the water.

Mr Martin said his client’s house was searched the following day by other Gardai and when he returned there later, his landlord told him to leave within 24 hours. He said Szerner arrived here from Poland 13 years ago and had worked as a  chef in a city centre hostelry.

Judge Fahy was dismayed to hear someone who kept rats was also working with food at the same time.

Szerner said that rats are very clean and clean themselves every five minutes.

Garda Carmel Higgins told the hearing that when she and Garda Conroy received the call initially of a male being in the water, they thought he was attempting to take his own life.

She concurred Szerner was highly intoxicated and very aggressive.

Szerner told the court his friend had minded his two pet rats while he went to a party the night before.

He said he was walking home from his friend’s house the evening with the rats in his pockets when one of them suddenly jumped out into the water and swam away.

He said his main concern was getting his rat back when it jumped into the water and he didn’t remember calling the Gardaí names.  He said the Gardai would not listen to him when he tried to tell them about the rat swimming away and he became annoyed with them.

“They wouldn’t listen to me and they wouldn’t let me rescue my pet,” he added.

During cross-examination by inspector Brendan Carroll, Szerner claimed that a second rat, which he said was in his other pocket, was “smashed” while he was being restrained on the ground. “He is dead. My friend took a picture,” Szerner said.

Insp Carroll put it to him that his friend was not in court to give evidence.  He put it to Szerner that he was very aggressive and resisted arrest and that was why extra Garda were called to the scene.

“I was very stressed because one of my rats was in the water and I knew I had lost him forever,” Szerner replied.

Judge Fahy said both Gardaí had given cogent evidence and while Szerner kept referring to a ‘friend’ there was nobody in court to back up his version of events.

Insp Carroll said that in relation to the public order offences which occurred in Shop Street on January 12 last, Szerner approached Garda Michael Gallagher while he was dealing with another incident.  He was intoxicated at the time and became very abusive and aggressive towards Garda Gallagher.

Judge Fahy sentenced him to two months in prison for refusing to leave the Canal Road area for Garda Conroy and she imposed a consecutive one-month sentence on him for breaching the peace on the same occasion.

She suspended both sentences for twelve months on condition he be of good behaviour and stay away from Galway City for the period of the suspension.

Fines totalling €200 were imposed for being drunk in public on both occasions, while the charge of resisting arrest was dismissed on a technicality.  Leave to appeal was granted.