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CITY TRIBUNE

Judge bites back at ‘vampire’ taxi passenger

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A back-seat passenger bit a taxi driver on the neck before telling him she was a vampire who loved blood.

Polish national, Alexandra Kruzel (38), was living in an apartment at Cuan na Coille, Bishop O’Donnell Road, at the time of the attack five years ago before moving to Germany.

The shocked taxi driver drove to Galway Garda Station and reported the incident immediately after he had dropped Kruzel at her address on March 22, 2014.

She was subsequently charged with two counts of assaulting the man as he drove along Seamus Quirke Road in the early hours of the morning.

A bench warrant was issued for Kruzel’s arrest when she subsequently failed to show up in court to answer the charges.

The warrant was executed last month on her return to Galway when she was arrested while intoxicated at Spanish Arch.

She appeared on bail before Galway District Court this week where she pleaded guilty to one of the assault charges.

Sergeant Cathal Rodgers, prosecuting, withdrew the second assault charge following the plea to the first.

He said the taxi driver had picked up the woman outside Karma nightclub around 1.30am and while driving along, she leaned forward and bit him on the left side of his neck, holding on for 30 seconds.

He pulled over and pleaded with her to let go and not break the skin.

“Eventually, she let go after 30 seconds, sat back and started laughing,” Sergeant Rodgers told the court.

The accused, he said, told the driver: “I am a vampire and I love blood.”

A black and white photo was handed into court, faintly showing a mark on the man’s neck, just under his left ear.  The skin was not broken.

Defence solicitor, Valerie Corcoran, said Kruzel’s instructions to her were that she didn’t want to hurt or cause harm to the man.

“She had a lot of drink taken.  I don’t know why, but she thought he liked her. She says she did what she did in an affectionate manner,” Ms Corcoran submitted.

“That’s a new one. Are you saying she intended to give him a love bite?” Judge Fahy asked.

Sgt Rodgers discounted this, observing the taxi driver was a middle-aged man.

Ms Corcoran put her client’s action down to the level of her inebriation on the night.

Judge Fahy became concerned that the taxi driver’s identity might become known though the media.

“The impression is that she was giving him a love bite, but that is not accepted by this court or by the State. The fact that he was a middle-aged man doesn’t matter,” the judge said.

Ms Corcoran agreed.

“The man was giving a service and acting completely professionally. My client lunged at the man and bit his neck, completely inappropriately. I can understand why he’s not in court. The man is completely innocent.

“He dropped her home and correctly went to the Garda Station to report the incident because it was clearly inappropriate.  I do not think there was any badness intended,” the solicitor said.

Kruzel, she said, is a Polish national now living and working in Germany for the last five years.

“She can’t understand why she did this and she forgot about it after moving to Germany. It came to light when she returned here to visit a friend.”

Sgt Rodgers confirmed there had been no conversation between the taxi driver and Kruzel before the attack happened.

Judge Fahy said it was important to note that, as there had been cases before the court in the past where inappropriate conversations had taken place, that was not the case here.

Judge Fahy said she would apply a monetary penalty and the taxi driver should be contacted to see if he was interested in getting compensation from his attacker.

Ms Corcoran informed the court her client’s phone and wallet had been stolen from her on the evening she was arrested at the Spanish Arch and she had no money on her.

Kruzel said a friend would have to send her money to pay for her fare back to Germany.

She admitted she had not reported the phone or wallet stolen to Gardai.

Judge Fahy said she didn’t believe Kruzel and in light of her comments, she said she didn’t believe the taxi driver would be interested in compensation either.

Taking into account the fact Kruzel had no previous convictions, Judge Fahy sentenced her to three months in prison for the assault and suspended the sentence for 12 months on condition she be of good behaviour and remain sober in public.  Leave to appeal was granted.

Ms Corcoran assured the court her client would be going back to Germany.

CITY TRIBUNE

€3bn plan for new hospitals at Merlin Park

Denise McNamara

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How the 200-bed elective hospital may 'fit' into the grounds of Merlin Park Hospital.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A 1,150-bed acute hospital and a separate 200-bed elective hospital at Merlin Park – costing in the region of €3 billion and taking up to 15 years to deliver – are included in a new report on health infrastructure needs for Galway.

A review of hospital requirements has produced ambitious proposals for the elective hospital – costing around €1.2bn and taking a decade to build – and acute hospital to replace UHG which would take 15 years to deliver.

The so-called ‘options appraisal’ conducted on behalf of the Saolta University Health Care Group concluded that separating acute and planned services – through the development of a purpose-built elective facility – will greatly improve efficiency and patient access by reducing waiting times and cancellations.

It will allow the Saolta Hospital Group to significantly increase the level of day surgery and reduce length of stay for patients.

Currently there are 46,000 people on a waiting list between the two hospitals with a further 14,000 patients travelling to Dublin from the Saolta region every year for treatment.

“The demand capacity gap will grow to a shortfall of 276 beds at Galway University Hospitals [UHG and Merlin combined] alone. Do nothing is not an option,” consultants KPMG wrote.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here, or download the app for Android or iPhone.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Minister gives go-ahead to army accommodation plan

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The USAC complex in Renmore, which is set to be redeveloped.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A 50-year-old building at Dún Uí Mhaoilíosa in Renmore is to be renovated to provide additional accommodation for members of the Defence Forces, the Minister for Defence has confirmed.

Minister Paul Kehoe (FG) told the Dáil that the former University Students Administrative Complement (USAC) complex would be redesigned to accommodate 120 persons living in single rooms.

“The rooms are fitted out to a basic standard and ablution facilities are provided communally. The building is nearly 50 years old and does not meet current standards with respect to building constriction methodology, fire prevention measures and energy efficiency,” said Minister Kehoe.

While currently in its early design stages, it is expected that construction work would commence late next year, he added.

USAC is a purpose-built facility constructed in the 1970s to accommodate Officers of the Defence Forces undertaking courses at third level institutes in Galway.

While located adjacent to the barracks in Renmore, it is outside the confines of the barracks and is self-contained with its own access and parking.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here, or download the app for Android or iPhone.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Taskforce gets down to work in Ballybane

Enda Cunningham

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Aoife Tully having fun in Ballybane Playground.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Ballybane Task Force is on a mission.

Since the cooperative made up of all major stakeholders set up two years ago, they have set themselves the goal of highlighting the positive work in train in the eastern suburb while providing support for community, voluntary and residents’ groups that currently operate.

They also want to encourage the participation of all locals – new and long-term – in activities while giving support to developing projects and initiatives.

Already the Task Force has spearheaded some tangible results. Last week, a homework club for secondary school students opened and an afterschool service for primary students will begin in January following the recruitment of staff.

There was further good news earlier this year with the redevelopment of the derelict Ballybane Neighbourhood Centre. It is set to be transformed into a revitalised enterprise centre, scheduled to be open in January.

One of the first tasks the group pursued was to identify gaps in resources and services across Ballybane and lay out a blueprint for action.

They secured funding to appoint a consultant to review this in depth and make recommendations.

The results of that needs analysis have just been published. Its overview of the area’s deprivation makes for stark reading.

Ballybane is described as the area where the older housing estates are bordered by Ballybane Road, Monivea Road and the Dublin Road, but excluding the Doughiska development.

It has a male unemployment rate of 25% or over – compared to a 15% average in the city – a lone parent rate of 35% or higher (24% in the city) and a 35% rate of children leaving school in the early years of secondary school (17%). Just one fifth go onto third level, compared to half elsewhere in the city.

This is a preview only. To read the rest of this feature on the regeneration of ballybane, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here, or download the app for Android or iPhone.

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