A 21-year-old former NUIG student, whom a judge described as “a dangerous young man who continues to pose a risk of serious harm to the public”, has been sentenced to seven years in prison with the final two years suspended for stalking a fellow student and attacking her friend with a hammer.
The conduct of Igor Lewandowski (21), from Monasterevin, Co. Kildare, was also described as ‘sinister’ by the probation service and his expressions of remorse ‘shallow’ by mental health experts.
Lewandowski was a second-year electronic engineering student at NUIG when he became obsessed with 20-year-old Eve McDowell, and began stalking and harassing her incessantly over a 17-day period in May of last year.
He drastically changed his appearance – by shaving off his hair, eyebrows and beard – when her friends pointed out to him during one stalking episode that he was easily recognisable.
He was arrested shortly after breaking into her apartment and assaulting her flatmate with a hammer very early on the morning of May 27 last and remained in custody since.
Lewandowski pleaded guilty last November before Galway Circuit Criminal Court to harassing Ms McDowell at her student accommodation at Dun na Coiribe, Headford Road, and also at various other locations around the city on dates between May 10 and May 27, 2019.
He also pleaded guilty to a charge of aggravated burglary by breaking into her apartment at Dun na Coiribe on May 27 last year, while having a claw hammer with him which he used to assault her flatmate Alison Buicke, causing her harm.
The accused, who moved from Poland to Monasterevin with his family ten years ago, was refused bail on six occasions since his incarceration last year.
His sentence hearing took place last week at Galway Circuit Criminal Court.
The initial hearing last November heard evidence from Det Bernard McLoughlin that the accused met Ms McDowell in a group setting through mutual friends. He began to follow her to and from NUIG to where she lived between May 10 and 27 last year.
He followed her to her place of part-time work in a clothing shop in the city centre at weekends and evenings and even stalked her when she met friends for lunch or went out at night.
Ms McDowell and her friends did not take his stalking behaviour seriously at first but she became alarmed and immediately contacted Gardaí when Lewandowski rang her doorbell early one morning and she could see as he pressed his face to the glass that he had shaved off his hair, eyebrows and beard.
Gardaí cautioned him to stay away from her but a few days later he returned to her flat at 6.30am, climbed onto her balcony using a scaffolding pole from a nearby building site and entered the apartment through an open door.
He was carrying a claw hammer and used it to attack her flatmate, Alison Buicke, as she slept on a couch in the sitting room, hitting her on the head and arms. She fended off the blows with her duvet and raised the alarm.
Lewandowski fled, jumping from the balcony onto a shrubbery below.
Gardai later found a sharp knife, an empty Viagra packet and a scaffolding pole at that location. Forensic examination failed to link him to the items and he denied all knowledge of them.
Lewandowski sprained his ankle in the jump and was found crawling along a busy road half a kilometre away by Gardaí a short time later.
He was arrested and only admitted both offences during a third interview.
Det McLoughlin said there had been clear premeditation as Lewandowski admitted he didn’t brought his mobile phone with him that morning because he knew Gardaí would be able to trace his movements if he had done so.
He claimed he was going to use the hammer to break the side window and gain entry through the front door to the apartment.He showed no remorse at the time.
Lewandowski admitted that while stalking Ms McDowell he had calculated the best vantage points in the student accommodation complex where she lived, from where he could simultaneously check her movements along either of two paths leading to and from her apartment. The hidden vantage point also afforded him a clear view through her bedroom window and the front door leading to her apartment block.
He claimed he had lent her €200 two months beforehand and that was why he had followed her for over two weeks and had gone to her apartment to get the money back. He subsequently changed his story, telling Gardaí he had gone to the apartment to speak to her about his conduct.
In her victim impact statement read to the court last November, Ms McDowell said she feared for her life if Lewandowski was released from custody.
She said the court process had been very long but she encouraged others who may be victims of stalking to come forward and make a complaint to Gardai.
She expressed relief that the process had come to an end and that her stalker had been sent to prison.
Ms Buicke was diagnosed with PTSD following the attack and continues to be treated for her symptoms, the court heard.
Two psychosocial reports and a probation report handed into court at the time, concurred the accused had displayed no empathy for either of his victims and he posed a risk of using similar violence in the future.
Passing sentence last week, Judge Rory McCabe said the probation service had described Lewandowski’s conduct as ‘sinister’, and that it had crossed “a number of moral and social boundaries”.
“They note clear indicators of a continued risk of serious harm to the public,” he said.
The judge noted Lewandowski was not suffering from any serious mental disorder, having been assessed by two psychologists and a forensic psychiatrist.
They had concurred the accused displayed a lack of genuine empathy for his victims and that his expression of remorse was shallow and self-serving as he was anxious about the sentence he would receive.
Judge McCabe said the evidence showed Lewandowski posed a risk of recidivism which meant a significant custodial sentence was unavoidable.
There was no evidence, he said, that the defendant had “any wish to engage in rehabilitation or accept the help that he obviously needs if he is not to pose an ongoing risk to the public.
“His conduct and attitude has shown him to be a dangerous young man,” Judge McCabe said.
The judge observed there was no way of knowing if the aggravated burglary was due to the Gardaí warning given a few days beforehand.
The judge said he was sorry for the accused, who, at a young age faced a significant custodial sentence, but he said he was far more sorry for the two young girls “whose lives, hopes and dreams were turned upside down” by Lewandowski’s conduct.
“I contrast his reported insouciance and lack of empathy with the total upheaval of their lives, their education and career paths,” he said.
The judge said Lewandowski’s true intent in breaking into the apartment armed with a weapon, remains unknown.
“But there are strands of evidence that suggest an intention to do more than talk or seek repayment of a fictitious loan.
“There is also evidence, perhaps tenuous, that his preparations included possessing a sharp knife, an empty Viagra packet and a form of scaffolding, all found at or near the locus. He denies ownership of any of these and there is no forensic evidence linking these to the defendant, other than their location.
“Had such evidence been forthcoming, the gravity of these offences would be elevated to a much higher level,” the judge observed.
He sentenced Lewandowski to three and a half years for harassing Ms McDowell and imposed a concurrent seven-year sentence for the aggravated burglary.
“In recognition of the public interest, rehabilitation and as an incentive and an active deterrent, I will suspend the final two years of the seven-year sentence for five years, with 12-month post release supervision,” Judge McCabe said.
Lewandowski, he added, was entitled to credit for time served and should be afforded medical treatment and counselling while in prison if he wished to avail of it.
The accused was bound to keep the peace for five years on his release as part of the suspended sentence.
He remained expressionless during the lengthy hearing and did not react when sentence was passed.
Titans return to the national league for coming season
TITANS BC is returning to the national league for the upcoming 2020/21 season, one of four new teams that will compete in the Men’s Division 1 this year.
The city side will play in the Northern Conference of the league alongside fellow new sides, Drogheda Wolves and Malahide, along with Ulster University from Belfast; LYIT from Donegal; Sligo All-Stars; and Dublin Lions and Tolka Rovers from Dublin.
That looks to be the easier of the two conferences: Dublin Lions were relegated from the Super League at the end of last season, LYIT finished 5th in Division 1, Sligo finished 8th, Ulster University finished 9th, and Tolka Rovers finished 10th in a 12-team league competition that ran as a single league, rather than split into two conferences.
With four new teams for the coming season – Team Kerry are the 4th new side – Division 1 is returning to a split conference format, and all the heavy-hitters would appear to be in the Southern Conference.
Team Kerry will be joined by fellow Killarney side, St Paul’s, which finished second in the league last season, as well as Cork’s Fr Mathews and IT Carlow, who finished 3rd and 4th respectively.
Limerick Celtics and Limerick Eagles, who finished 6th and 7th, are also in the Southern Conference, as well as last season’s bottom two, WIT Waterford and Portlaoise Panthers.
Titans took a one-year hiatus from the league last season, having endured a torrid 2018/19 campaign when it finished with the worst record in the league, winning just two of its 23 league games to finish bottom of the Northern Conference.
Maree and Moycullen will once again represent Galway in the Men’s Super League, which is also being split into a two-conference format, with six teams in each conference. However, while Titans will be looking north for their main opposition, Maree and Moycullen will be looking in the opposite direction as both have been placed in the South Conference.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.
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Group hurling ties to be restricted to supporters of participating teams
NO neutrals will be allowed to attend the opening round of the revamped Galway senior hurling championship which is scheduled to start in little more than a fortnight’s time.
A gathering of 500 – likely to also include the rival players and mentors – will be restricted to each group game, with the participating clubs set to be allocated around 200 tickets each for sale/distribution ahead of the fixture.
A mechanism has still to be sorted for this process, but matches will be restricted to Galway’s three county grounds: Pearse Stadium, Kenny Park, Athenry and Duggan Park, Ballinasloe, along with Loughrea. Killimor was the fifth venue in consideration for hosting senior games, but redevelopment work at the ground has ruled out that prospect.
The full round of 12 group ties will go ahead on the weekend ending July 26, but there will be no double headers. Instead, games at the same venues will be staged four hours apart to allow sanitisation of the various grounds.
Only people with tickets will gain entry to the games and there will be no cash taken at the turnstiles.
Street fight thugs from viral video outside Garda HQ avoid jail
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Two men and a woman who were involved in a ‘staged’ fistfight outside the new Garda HQ in Renmore were warned they will serve prison sentences if they don’t stay off social media for two years.
Suspended sentences were imposed on all three over the incident which was recorded on mobile phone and footage went viral on social media.
The altercation between John Maughan (27), formerly of Rinville Park, Oranmore, who now lives in Dublin, and Patrick Maughan (31), of 122 Laurel Park, Newcastle, was filmed on Patrick Maughan’s phone by his wife, Ellen Maughan (31), who is John Maughan’s sister.
The footage was uploaded that evening to YouTube, where it gained a lot of traction.
Galway District Court heard this week the trio were sitting in their cars when Gardaí arrived at the scene within a matter of minutes.
They were subsequently charged with affray at Dublin Road, Murrough, Renmore, on November 2, 2018, in that all three used or threatened to use violence towards each other, thereby putting other people present in fear for their own safety and the safety of others.
Both men were also charged with breaching the peace.
Garda Pat Casey told the sentence hearing the incident occurred at 2.30pm on the main road between GMIT and the Garda HQ.
He said the men’s cars met, whether by accident or design, at that location where they got out and had a fist fight in the middle of the road.
Judge Mary Fahy asked if the location chosen for the fight, right outside the new Garda HQ, was deliberate.
Garda Casey said the men claimed they met by accident, “but that was where they met”, he added.
“The inference is they did it deliberately outside the Station to make it even better on social media. They are an absolute disgrace to do that in public and to do it in front of their children,” Judge Fahy said.
This is a shortened preview version of this court report. To read the article in full, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.