A stalker used a scaffolding pole to climb onto the balcony of a young woman’s apartment, before walking in through an open door and assaulting her flatmate with a claw hammer as she slept on a couch.
Igor Lewandowski (20), formerly of Dunaras, Bishop O’Donnell Road, was a first year engineering student at NUIG when he became obsessed with another student and began to stalk her incessantly earlier this year.
Lewandowski, who secured 565 points in his Leaving Cert results, used his engineering skills to locate the best vantage point in the student accommodation complex where the young woman 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 of the woman’s bedroom window and the front door leading to her apartment block.
Lewandowski pleaded guilty last month before Galway Circuit Criminal Court to harassing the female student at Dún na Coiribe, Headford Road, and also at various other locations around Galway City on dates between May 10 and May 27 last, contrary to Section 10 (1) and (6) of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997.
He also pleaded guilty to a charge of aggravated burglary by breaking into her apartment at Dún na Coiribe on March 27 last, while having a silver claw hammer with him which he used to assault another female, causing her harm, contrary to Section 13 (1) and (3) of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001.
The accused, who moved from Poland to Monasterevin in Kildare with his family ten years ago, has been held on remand since his arrest in connection with the offences last May and has recently been put on 23-hour lockdown in prison for his own protection.
Five bail applications which he made to both the District Court and High Court in the intervening period, were all refused.
He was due to be sentenced last week, but appeared in custody before the court ahead of that schedule when he lodged a sixth bail application.
Detective Bernard McLoughlin strenuously objected to the application, telling the court the accused was a flight risk and that both women lived in fear of him.
Outlining his objections to bail, Det McLoughlin said this was a very unusual case and that he could not emphasise enough the impact it was having on both women.
He said the harassment began in early May when the accused began to watch and beset the young woman he became infatuated with.
They had met through mutual friends in NUIG but as time went on the accused became infatuated and besotted with her. He discovered where she worked in a shop and during Garda interviews, he admitted following her to her place of work and watching her. He followed her when she took her lunch breaks and after work, followed her when she went to pubs and restaurants with her friends.
He would then follow her as she made her way home to the Dún na Coiribe student village.
Det McLoughlin said Lewandowski told him during interview that he had created a vantage point for himself from where he could watch two pathways simultaneously to monitor the woman’s movements as she came and went from her accommodation.
“He could also monitor the front door to the apartment block and had a viewing point to her bedroom as well,” Det McLoughlin said.
The young woman and her housemates became aware Lewandowski was following them, but they thought it would stop and he would go away in time.
However, on May 17 last, the doorbell rang at 9am and when the young woman looked out the upstairs window, she saw the accused hiding in bushes outside. She immediately rang the Gardaí.
On May 26, Lewandowski appeared to bump into the woman by chance on campus. She became afraid and went straight home but shortly afterwards, she saw him outside the apartment again.
Det McLoughlin said that due to the seriousness of the offence, a warning was circulated to Lewandowski to see what his intentions were. The following morning Gardaí received an emergency call from the woman that one of her housemates had been assaulted by the accused in the apartment.
Gardaí discovered the accused had entered the property by using a scaffolding pole to get onto the balcony and from there he went into the apartment through an unlocked door.
Her flatmate, who had locked herself out of her own bedroom the night before and had slept on the couch instead, woke up to find the accused repeatedly hitting her with a claw hammer. She managed to fend off the blows with her duvet. The accused fled and jumped off the balcony.
Gardai found a knife on the ground near where he had jumped.
Lewandowski was found a short time later “crawling across the Dyke Road”.
During subsequent Garda interviews, he claimed he only wanted to talk to the woman and get €200 which he had lent back from her.
“We aren’t sure what his true intentions were,” Det McLoughlin added.
He said the accused was of Polish heritage and while his immediate family lived in Monasterevin, he had extended family in Poland.
The detective said he believed that if the accused was given bail he would be a serious flight risk.
“I can’t emphasise enough the impact this case has had on the two victims. The girl he was stalking is here, but the girl he attacked with the hammer is doing exams today and cannot be here,” Det McLoughin explained.
“This bail hearing has caused serious anxiety for both of them, especially the girl doing her exams today.
“He’s a very intelligent man and if he’s granted bail, both women will be homeless this Christmas because they will have to leave their accommodation.
“They’ve told me that after he finishes whatever sentence he gets, they will have to leave Galway City because they will not feel safe once he’s free.
“Both of them are receiving counselling at the moment and this has had a very serious effect on their lives.”
Mr Patrick O’Sullivan BL, defending, said he was very conscious this was a bail hearing and he didn’t want to stray into evidence that would be given at the sentence hearing.
He noted the detective thought his client was intelligent, before suggesting the extent to which his client had co-operated during Garda interview, would not suggest he was intelligent.
“Are you suggesting that honestly shows a lack of intelligence?,” Judge Rory McCabe asked counsel.
Mr O’Sullivan replied he was merely saying his client had given more information to Det McLoughlin than what the Garda had been looking for.
Mr O’Sullivan said his client denied he had the knife found outside the apartment and it was quite possible the knife had been there already.
Det McLoughlin said he found that hard to believe but it was possible.
Mr O’Sullivan said his client’s father was prepared to enter into a bond and was in a position to lodge €18,000 in court to secure his son’s bail.
Det McLoughlin said nothing would allay his fears of the impact it would have on the victims if the accused was given bail. And he said he felt the injured parties would still be at risk from the accused.
“During interview, I could see no remorse from him. He couldn’t see what he did was wrong, including assaulting a female with a hammer,” he added.
Mr O’Sullivan said his client was prepared to stay out of Galway until his sentence hearing and if given a suspended sentence he would move to Dublin and attend college there next September.
Judge Rory McCabe said the accused had pleaded guilty to very serious offences which had a serious impact on the victims.
He said Lewandowski’s status had changed once he pleaded guilty last month and he could see no grounds for granting him bail this week knowing that sentence would be taking place next week.
He refused the bail application and remanded the accused in continuing custody to next week, December 18, for sentence.
Mr O’Sullivan asked for that date to be vacated as he needed time to secure a probation report and a psychological report on his client prior to sentence taking place.
The judge agreed and remanded Lewandowski in continuing custody to February 21 for sentence.
Galway City Council turns down Mad Yolk Farm site
An application to retain farming-related development on a site in Roscam has been turned down by Galway City Council.
The local authority has refused to grant retention permission to applicant Brian Dilleen for subsurface piping to be used for agricultural irrigation at ‘Mad Yolk Farm’ on Rosshill Road.
It also refused permission for the retention of a bore-hole well, water pump and concrete plinth; and two water holding tanks for 6,500 litres; and other associated site works.
In its written decision, the Planning Department at City Hall said: “The proposed development, would if permitted, facilitate the use of the site for the provision of sixty 15.5m high seed beds, which have been deemed by the planning authority not to be exempted development.
“Therefore a grant of permission for the proposed development would facilitate the unauthorised development and usage on the site, contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.”
The site has been the subject of enforcement action by the local authority.
A lengthy Appropriate Assessment Screening report, submitted with the planning application, concluded “beyond reasonable scientific doubt, in view of the best scientific knowledge, on the basis of objective information and in light of the conservation objectives of the relevant European sites, that the proposed retention and development, individually or in combination with other plans and projects, has not and will not have a significant effect on any European site”.
A borehole Impact Assessment Report concluded that the proposed retention development “on the hydraulic properties of the aquifer is considered negligible”.
It said that there was “no potential for significant effects on water quality, groundwater dependent habitats or species associated with any European site”.
Six objections were lodged by neighbours, including one from the Roshill/Roscam Residents Association, which argued the Further Information submitted by the applicant did “little to allay our concerns” about the impact of the development on an “extremely sensitive site”.
The applicant has until June 29 to appeal the decision to An Bórd Pleanála.
NUIG student accommodation firm records loss
The property company which operates student accommodation on behalf of NUI Galway recorded a €3.4 million increase in turnover in 2019.
However, Atalia Student Residences DAC (Designated Activity Company), which is owned by the university, recorded a loss for the year of €6,300.
Accounts for the company for the year ended August 31, 2019, show that while there was a loss, retained profits are at more than €1.6 million. The accounts are the most up to date available from the Companies Registration Office.
The previous year, the company made a profit of more than €460,000.
Atalia Student Residences operates the 764-bed Corrib Village apartment complex and the 429-bed Goldcrest Village.
The figures show that the company’s overall turnover jumped by 52% – from €6.4m to €9.8m.
Turnover for accommodation services was up from €5.2m to €8.4m; and from conferences and events was up from €850,000 to €1.1m. Turnover from shops was down from almost €328,000 to €290,000.
Outside of the academic year, both complexes are used as accommodation for conference delegates, while Corrib Village is also used for short-term holiday lets.
The accounts show fixed assets – including fixtures and fittings, plant and machinery and office equipment – valued at €1.5m. Its current assets were valued at more than €7m, including ‘cash at bank and in hand’ of almost €6.9m (up from €5.6m last year).
The company owed creditors €6.9m, including €5.2m in deferred income.
It employed 38 people (which includes its five directors) last year, up from 31 the previous year.
As well as operating the student accommodation complexes, the company also markets conference facilities and services on behalf of the university.
It pays rent to NUIG but the figure is not included in the company accounts. In 2018, the rent figure was just over €2.25m.
In Corrib Village, a single bedroom with a private en suite for the academic year costs €5,950. For Goldcrest Village, the figure is €6,760.
Call for two-way cycling under Galway City outdoor dining plan
Bike users want the local authority to examine the introduction of two-way cycling on one-way city centre streets.
Galway Cycling Campaign has again called for cycling to be allowed both ways. It comes as Galway City Council prepares to cordon-off parts of city centre streets to traffic, and make Dominick Street Lower one-way, to facilitate outdoor dining.
The cycling organisation said that the proposed pedestrianisation plan at the Small Crane, and the one-way system on Dominick Street, will result in lengthy diversions for people on bikes.
It has pointed out that school children and their guardians who cycle along Raleigh Row, and turn right towards Sea Road, will probably continue to do so even when the Small Crane is cordoned off to traffic, because the alternative route – via Henry Street – is too long a detour.
Similarly, it has been suggested that food-delivery services on bikes are unlikely to go the ‘long way round’ via Mill Street and New Road to get from Bridge Mills to restaurants on Dominick Street and would be tempted to cycle the ‘wrong way’ down the proposed one-way street or on the footpath.
Shane Foran, committee member of Galway Cycling Campaign, said now would be an ideal time to introduce two-way cycling on some one-way streets.
“It’s not controversial,” insisted Mr Foran. “It’s a general principle in other countries, if you are putting in new traffic arrangements, you would try and keep access for people on bikes.”
The regulation is contained in the National Cycle Policy Framework 2009; and a specific objective was contained in two of the most recent previous City Development Plans.
He said a former minister and Galway West TD, the late Bobby Molloy, had the vision to change the legislation in the late 1990s – but it hasn’t yet been embraced here.
“Bobby Molloy, who couldn’t be classed as an eco warrior, changed the law in 1998, so that it is available to local authorities to put up a sign granting an exemption from restrictions for people cycling on one-way streets.
“The road stays one-way for cars, and two ways for bicycles. Clearly that’s not going to be a sensible to do everywhere, like Merchants’ Road. In those situations, you might need a cycle track or lane to segregate people from traffic.
“But if it’s a low traffic street, with low speeds or relatively lower volumes of cars, then it should be possible for people on bicycles to cycle in both directions and still have it one-way for cars, without it being a major safety issue. It works in other countries,” said Mr Foran.