A kitchen porter who sexually assaulted a woman in her home while posing as a masseur, has been sentenced to three years in prison with the final 18 months suspended.
Gheorge Popa (66), a Moldovan national, had been working as a kitchen porter in a Galway City restaurant for eight years prior to the offence taking place at the woman’s home in Galway City on April 7, 2016.
A friend had recommended Popa to the woman, who is in her 30s and suffers from work-related back pain.
Popa pleaded guilty to the sexual assault moments before his trial was due to begin at Galway Circuit Criminal Court.
Sergeant Patricia Grady gave evidence that the victim’s friend had recommended Popa as a masseur and she arranged for him to call to her house to give her a back massage.
Her children were in bed when he called and the woman brought him upstairs to her bedroom.
She lay on the bed, face down wearing a bra, leggings and pyjama bottoms.
Popa opened the woman’s bra and began to massage her back.
He then told her to turn over onto her back. She became extremely embarrassed when the bra slipped and her breasts were exposed.
Popa pulled down her bottom clothing and lay on top of the woman, trying to kiss her. Seconds before this happened the woman had noticed his trousers were undone. He sexually assaulted her and then immediately apologised.
She was extremely afraid he might harm her and her children so she said nothing to him but went to her en suite. He followed her and cleaned himself and dressed.
He followed her downstairs and told her not to tell their mutual friend. He said he normally charged €20 for a massage but said he would not charge her under the circumstances.
In her victim impact statement, which Sgt Grady read into evidence, the woman said she had been extremely frightened that Popa might return to her home.
She contacted the Gardai two days later and samples taken from her clothing and body at the Sexual Assault Unit, were sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory.
Meanwhile, Popa returned home to Moldova, but was brought back to this jurisdiction in custody on foot of a European arrest warrant last May and was charged with sexual assault.
Samples taken from him matched semen samples taken from the victim’s body.
The woman, who was present in court, said in her impact statement that she felt “shocked, ashamed and upset” at what had happened. She said she had been left feeling violated and scared that Popa might come back.
She said she no longer felt safe and no longer trusted people.
“I feel angry and sad all the time. I will never trust anyone again,” she said.
Defence barrister, Conal McCarthy, offered an apology in court on behalf of his client.
He said Popa had worked for many years in Ireland and regularly sent money home to his family in Moldova. He had no previous convictions in either jurisdiction.
Judge Rory McCabe noted the maximum sentence for this offence was ten years and he placed the headline sentence at six years.
Taking Popa’s guilty plea, which spared the victim from having to endure a trial, his age and his previous good record into account, the judge said the appropriate sentence was three years with the final 18 months suspended.
The suspended part of the sentence is conditional on Popa leaving the country as soon as he has served the balance of the sentence, which was backdated to when he went into custody last May.
He was also placed on the Sex Offender’s Register.
New fire station for Athenry gets stamp of approval
Councillors have given their stamp of approval to a new fire station for Athenry – voting unanimously to grant planning for the development at Ballygarraun South.
The site of just under two acres, located between the new Presentation College and the railway line, will house a station as well as a training tower and parking.
Chief Fire Officer Paul Duffy told a meeting of the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District this week that they hoped to have a contractor appointed by the end of October, with works to get underway soon afterwards.
“We have worked very hard to get this project to a tangible position and it’s great that the ‘Part 8’ planning application [one which requires a vote by councillors] has been adopted today,” said Mr Duffy.
“This will hopefully get underway this year and we can move on to other stations [in the county], with another one planned for next year and another the year after,” he added.
The plans include the construction of a 361 square metre fire station with finishing materials common to the area which ‘will link the development on the site to the context overall’.
Permission has been granted from the IDA, which owns the site, for Galway County Council to proceed with the development on their lands.
The meeting heard that consideration had been given to the sightlines for exiting fire trucks and that amendments had been made to the original plans to ensure they were adequate.
Local area councillor Gabe Cronnelly (Ind) said the progression of a new fire station for the town was hugely welcome, adding that it had been years in the making.
“We have to give huge credit to Paul Duffy who pursued this. Athenry is one of the busiest stations in the county. We secured an extension for the existing station six years ago and when the Department was granting that, they could see that, from the amount of calls it was getting, that a new station was justified,” said Cllr Cronnelly.
Cllr Shelly Herterich Quinn (FF) said she was ‘delighted’ that the area’s representatives had given the proposal their unanimous backing.
Plan for ‘world-class’ campus with potential for 10,000 jobs at Galway Airport
From this week’s Galway CIty Tribune – A proposal to transform the former Galway Airport into a ‘world-class’ business and technology campus has been drawn up by Galway County Council – with the potential to create up to 10,000 jobs.
The plan, which was compiled as part of the Draft County Development Plan, proposes a multi-million-euro investment in the 115-acre site owned jointly by the County and City Councils.
According to the vision document, the airport site at Carnmore could become a key economic driver that would “attract and secure long-term investment in Galway and the western region, and underpin the development of the Galway Metropolitan Area”.
Among the sectors identified as potential occupants are renewable energy, biodiversity, food science and logistics.
Some of the structures included for are a ‘landmark building’; commercial units; park amenity and recreation space; a renewable energy park; and a multi-purpose leisure facility.
A contemporary development with the potential to accommodate emerging industries is promised, with projected employment numbers ranging between 3,500 to 10,000 over time.
However, county councillors raised concerns at a meeting this week that the proposal they had seen in the Development Plan had been ‘sitting on a shelf’ since last March – and they still hadn’t seen what was dubbed ‘the masterplan’ for the airport site.
Cllr Liam Carroll (FG) told the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District meeting that the recent news that Oranmore was among the locations being looked at by multinational tech giant, Intel, put fresh focus on the future of the airport.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of this story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.
Work expected to start on Galway City cycleways next summer
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The first six projects in the city’s major new cycle network are expected to begin construction by next June.
In an update on developments that are in train to improve the lot of cyclists, councillors at this week’s local authority meeting were told that the Martin Roundabout (near the Galway Clinic) would next be changed to a junction and the BusConnects, involving priority bus lanes from Moneenageisha to University Hospital Galway, were advancing.
The National Transport Authority (NTA) has approved a raised cycle lane north of Railway Bridge on Doughiska Road South and for a shared street south of the bridge.
Eglinton Canal will turn into a shared cycle and pedestrian path. Four weeks of public consultation on both of these is set to begin in October, with the projects set to go to detailed design and tender following final NTA approval.
Ballybane, Castlepark and Bóthar Stiofáin Roads will also go to public consultation for “raised adjacent cycle schemes” a month after that.
The six projects are expected to begin construction by the end of June or early July next year.
Millars Lane is currently in preliminary design stage after clearing works were carried out last November.
Options are being examined and parking survey prepared for Threadneedle, Bishop O’Donnell, Dr Mannix, Devon Park, Salthill Road Upper and Lower Roads with input and designs from the Parkmore Strategic Framework awaited for the Monivea and Doughiska North Roads.
Active Travel Schemes had been approved in principle by the NTA for Ballyloughane and Clybaun South Roads, involving pedestrian crossings, traffic calming, signalisation of junctions and the integration of safe school routes.
Cllr John Connolly (FF) noted that the first quarter of 2021 was when some of these projects were to go to construction, according to a previous timetable.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of Pamela’s story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.