Mugger jailed for pizza knife attack on couple at Spanish Arch

Galway Courthouse

A 31-year-old mugger has been sentenced to eight years in prison with the final 18 months suspended for slashing a couple across their necks with a pizza knife while attempting to rob them.

Imposing the sentence at Galway Circuit Criminal Court, Judge Rory McCabe likened the slash wounds to the horrific machete attacks inflicted on people during the genocide in Rwanda some years ago.

The judge said the couple were lucky to be alive, especially the man, who had suffered a deep, 13cm life-threatening laceration to his neck.

Father-of-two, Frank McDonagh (31), of 31 Tulach Ard, Rahoon, initially appeared before Galway Circuit Criminal Court in February where he pleaded guilty, moments before his trial was due to begin, to intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm to a 28-year-old man at the Spanish Arch on March 30 last year.

He also pleaded guilty to assaulting a 22-year-old woman, causing her harm on the same occasion and to producing a knife, capable of inflicting serious injuries, during the course of the attempted robberies.

Garda Pat Foley told the sentence hearing this week that a couple were sitting on a bench at 1.15am on March 30 last year near the water’s edge at the Spanish Arch when McDonagh approached them.

He took out a pizza knife which had a curved four-inch blade and demanded the girl hand over her handbag and that both of them hand over their phones and all of their cash.

The couple refused and a struggle ensued, during which McDonagh sliced across the man’s neck, inflicting a deep 13 cm laceration from just below his left earlobe to the middle of his neck at the front.

The young woman went to the man’s aid and McDonagh sliced the knife downwards through her left ear from the top, right down to the lobe.

He then sliced the knife again across the left-hand side of her neck.

She fell to the ground, bleeding heavily.

A passerby saw what was happening and tackled McDonagh to the ground.  He disarmed him and threw the knife into the river to stop any further assault taking place. He managed to restrain McDonagh on the ground until Gardai arrived at the scene.

McDonagh was arrested and taken to the Garda station while the couple, who were both bleeding heavily, were removed to hospital by ambulance.

CCTV in the area captured the assault. The footage was shown to McDonagh but he denied at all times that he had been carrying a knife.

Garda Foley said he went to McDonagh’s sister’s house, where McDonagh had been staying at the time, and noticed that a pizza knife was missing from a block of knives in her kitchen. It matched a description of the knife used in the assaults.

The couple showed their respective injuries to Judge McCabe in court. Both have been left with permanent scars.

Garda Foley read their victim impact statements into evidence.

Both expressed fear at being alone while walking around Galway since the attack. Both said the scars reminded them of what happened that night.

Garda Foley said McDonagh had 90 previous convictions and had been out on bail for other offences when he committed these crimes.

McDonagh went into the witness box and said he had begun to seek help for his addictions for the first time in his life since being in prison for these offences.  He said he was very sorry for the injuries he caused.

“I didn’t set out to hurt anyone. I know I done it,” he said.

Judge McCabe dismissed this out of hand and said the possession of the pizza knife showed “clear premeditation.”

Reading medical reports which were handed into court, the Judge said the couple were lucky to be alive, particularly the man, who had sustained the most serious injury which was deemed life-threatening by the surgeon who treated him.

Viewing graphic photos of the injuries, particularly the man’s neck injury which were taken on the night by Garda Denis Sweeney, the judge said it reminded him of the horrific injuries inflicted on people during the genocide in Rwanda some years ago, when people were hacked to death with machetes.

The judge sentenced McDonagh to eight years in prison for the serious assault on the man, and suspended the final 18 months.

He imposed a concurrent four-year sentence for the assault on the woman and a further concurrent four-year sentence for the possession of the knife.