A barman had a quarter of his skull surgically removed to allow his brain to swell – to minimise brain damage – after he was assaulted while trying to protect a young woman on the street.
Wesley Wilders told Galway Circuit Criminal Court he had a great job in Busker Browne’s, had a lovely girlfriend, was about to choose which college course to do, and was looking forward to celebrating his 25th birthday when his whole life was suddenly turned upside down by an unprovoked, one-punch assault.
He said he could not forgive Sultan Sarumi (19), who had ruined his life and left him with life-threatening injuries.
Sarumi, with addresses in Gleann Rua, Ballybane, and Harold’s Cross, Dublin, pleaded guilty to assaulting Mr Wilders, causing him harm, at Bohermore on October 7 last year.
Sergeant Noel Sweeney said the accused fled the scene after the assault and did everything he could to evade Gardai on the night.
Mr Wilders hit his head on the ground following the punch and lost consciousness at the scene.
Witnesses said the accused punched him after he came to the aid of a girl who had been confronted by a group of teens.
“After seeing the victim lying on the ground, he (Sarumi) fled the scene without any regard for the man, who suffered serious life- threatening injuries,” Sergeant Sweeney said.
Gardai had to launch an extensive search on the night to locate the culprit. Sgt Sweeney said that following his arrest, Sarumi showed no remorse and tried to blame the victim.
The sergeant said Mr Wilders suffered a fracture to his skull and had spent six weeks in Beaumont Hospital before being transferred to Sligo General Hospital.
He said the victim had a large section of his skull removed to allow his brain to swell in the immediate aftermath and a titanium plate was fitted to seal the area this September.
A medical report handed into court, stated Mr Wilders had a large visible scar across his skull as a result of the operation. His speech is now sometimes slurred and his gait unsteady due to right-side weakness in his body.
Sgt Sweeney said Sarumi was well-known to Gardai in Galway over the years and he had seven previous convictions for drug dealing, criminal damage, robberies, and one for another serious assault for which he received a three-month prison term last April.
Defence barrister, Garry McDonald said Sarumi had come to Ireland from Nigeria when he was nine years old and was estranged from his family. He said his client had expressed remorse during his final Garda interview.
Mr Wilders, who is a native of Strandhill, Sligo, read his own victim impact statement into evidence.
He became emotional on several occasions in the witness box.
“All I was trying to do was help a lady. I ended up in ICU fighting for my life and was in a coma for two weeks. I couldn’t talk or move or recognise anyone. I went down to seven-and-a-half stone.
“I’m afraid all the time now. My mother had to give up her job to mind me. I broke up with my girlfriend. I cannot work anymore. I’m so afraid to go outside the house. All my past memories are gone.
“I don’t know if I will ever recover because my right side is so weak. I don’t know if I will ever get back to the way I was before,” he sobbed.
Addressing the accused, he said: “I really hope you do not hurt anyone else like you have hurt me. You will never realise the suffering you have put me through. How can I forgive?” he said.
Mr Wilders explained he now lived in a constant state of fear, even while in his own home.
Judge Rory McCabe said the offence carried a maximum five-year sentence and given Sarumi’s extensive range of previous convictions, some of which involved violence, the headline sentence in this case, he said, was five years.
The judge noted from a prison governor’s report, that Sarumi had been in an altercation with other prisoners while awaiting sentence and his involvement with the probation service had been superficial.
The early plea of guilty, he said, was a mitigating factor because it had spared the victim the trauma of having to give evidence at a trial.
Noting Sarumi was deemed by the probation service to be at a moderately high risk of reoffending, Judge McCabe said the appropriate sentence was three years and six months with the final six months suspended for 12 months.
Galway City Council to ‘review’ Kirwan junction
Councillors are demanding proof that the €5 million spent to transform Kirwan Roundabout into a signalised junction was money well spent – blasting the new junction as having created long delays and worsening rat-running.
A meeting of the local authority last week heard that while there was a general acceptance there would be ‘teething problems’ with the traffic-light junction after it became operational in July, ongoing issues were continuing to draw the ire of road users and local residents.
Cllr Mike Cubbard (Ind) said he was one of five councillors on the previous Council to initially vote against the removal of the roundabout, based on fears that it would increase traffic through local residential areas – a fear that had been realised.
“What changes have been needed to be done since it went live,” asked the former Mayor, indicating that there had been little improvement.
Cllr Alan Cheevers (FF) said he understood that enhancement works were being done, but more were required.
“A lot of drivers are avoiding it and its driving traffic through the likes of Terryland Business Park. The Tuam Road is now gridlocked,” he said, calling on the Council to do a “PR exercise” to encourage drivers back to Kirwan.
Cllr Clodagh Higgins (FG) said the junction continued to confuse people and suggested that “overhead hanging signs” would be of assistance.
Green Party Councillor Niall Murphy said when the roundabout was slated for removal, it was promised that delays would be reduced by 25% and rat-running by 90% – but as yet, no evidence had been provided to show this.
“We need to put some science on this.
“The rat-running has moved to Dyke Road and there are some sections of that road where there are no footpaths, so it is quite dangerous for pedestrians,” said Cllr Murphy.
Acting Director of Services for Transport, Uinsinn Finn, told the meeting he believed there was a silent majority that were satisfied with the new junction.
He said that the junction’s ‘go live’ date was July 19, which coincided with the reopening of many parts of society that had been in lockdown due to Covid, and that had contributed to additional traffic.
“The first two objectives were to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety, and those objectives have been achieved.
“There will be a post project review – that is something that we always do and I would be happy to bring that back to Council for its consideration,” said Mr Finn.
Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath confirmed that review was set to get underway.
“It will go through the various elements and if issues arise following the review, they will be addressed,” he said.
Thieves target cars as owners unload shopping bags
Galway shoppers have been advised by Gardaí not to leave their vehicles unlocked or unattended as they bring their shopping into their homes.
This follows reports in the Newcastle area of opportunist thieves ‘striking’ as the shopping bags were being moved into houses.
One resident told the Galway City Tribune that the thieves waited until the person had taken a bag of shopping from their cars to bring into their home.
“This gives the thieves a minute or two to have a quick look in the car – what they seem to be looking for are purses, bags or wallets that are left behind in the car,” the resident stated.
He added that some of local residents had notices two ‘youngish lads’ – possibly in their late teens or early 20s – hanging around the Newcastle Park Road area over the past week or two.
“I just think that people need to be on their guard for this kind of opportunist theft. They just wait until the driver goes inside the house with the shopping and before they come back out, they do a quick search of the car,” he said.
Galway Garda Crime Prevention Officer, Sergeant Michael Walsh, said that opportunist thieves would always be ‘on the look out for a handy theft’.
“What I would advise is that either have someone to keep an eye on the car when the shopping is being removed – or else lock the car each time, and don’t leave any cash or valuables in the vehicle.
“It might be an inconvenience to lock the car each time you go back into the house, but it is still far better than having something stolen from your vehicle,” said Sgt Walsh.
He also urged, that as a matter of routine, no one should leave any valuables in their cars when they parked them up.
“Even the coins that some people keep in car pockets for parking or other small payments can attract thieves. Never leave anything of value in your vehicles,” he said.
Councillors back bid to ban city centre parking in Galway
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Councillors have unanimously agreed to ask Transport Minister Eamon Ryan to limit parking to residents only in the city centre.
Pedestrians in the city are being treated like second-class citizens, according to the Mayor, who said cars continued to get the priority on Galway’s streets.
At a meeting of the City Council this week, Mayor Colette Connolly (Ind) said the city had come to a standstill in car traffic, and pedestrians and cyclists were suffering the consequences.
“At junctions, why am I a second-class citizen in my own city as a pedestrian? It rains in Galway for 300 days of the year, but I am a second-class citizen when priority is given to motorists.
“It’s always the pedestrian that waits,” she said, hitting out at the length it took to get a green light to cross at pedestrian crossings.
One way to reduce the number of cars in the city centre would be to limit parking to residents only in the city centre, said the Mayor.
In a motion she proposed, seconded by Cllr Mike Cubbard (Ind), councillors unanimously agreed to write to the Minister for Transport to demand he pass the necessary legislation to enable the Council to do this.
The Mayor said residents were “sick, sore and tired” of people parking where they wanted when they visited the city and said despite a desire to introduce this measure going back almost 20 years, the Council was hamstrung by national legislation that prevented them from proceeding.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.