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‘He is a dangerous sexual predator and everyone should know his name’: says Limerick victim | #childpredator | #kidsaftey | #childsaftey


A LIMERICK woman said in her victim impact statement that Denis O’Donovan is “a dangerous sexual predator and everyone should know his name”.

The woman, who doesn’t wish to be identified, told Limerick Circuit Court that everything O’Donovan “has done to me has completely destroyed my life”.

Denis O’Donovan, aged 38, of Ballyryan, Donohill, Co Tipperary was found guilty by a jury of two sexual assaults, false imprisonment and assault causing harm at a two week trial in April.

The defendant was before Judge Dermot Sheehan for judgement on Thursday, May 16.

Lily Buckley, prosecuting barrister, instructed by State solicitor Padraig Mawe, gave a summary of the evidence with the assistance of Detective Garda Chris Cowan.

She said the offences occurred on a date in January 2020. It was at a property in County Limerick.

“She was at home alone in the evening. There was a knock on her door. The light outside was not working. She had a torch. A car was on her drive. She was pulled into the car and kept against her will.

“The car went down the road and it stopped. She was grabbed by the neck and choked by the accused. Her hips were pinned between the front seats. Her tracksuit pants and panties were pulled down. He jabbed his fingers into her vagina repeatedly. He licked her vagina. At the time she had her period and was using an improvised sanitary towel,” said Ms Buckley.

The court heard the victim, a woman in her 40s, made good her escape by saying she wanted to get more comfortable. She fell out of the car, pulled up her tracksuit and panties and was “so desperate to get away that she went through a ditch with briars where she stayed”, said Ms Buckley.

She said the victim returned to her home and rang 999. 

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Gardai took her to a sexual assault treatment unit where it was found she had a scratch on her forehead, bruise below her clitoris, and marks on her neck which were “consistent with sexual assault and choking”.

O’Donovan was arrested in January 2020 and was interviewed five times.

Det Garda Cowan said O’Donovan was adamant the victim was not in his car and he did not touch her. The detective garda said O’Donovan told gardai that the victim was “mad”.

Ms Buckley said Forensic Science Ireland found fibres from O’Donovan’s top on the victim’s cardigan which is “consistent with a struggle”.

The prosecuting barrister said O’Donovan’s DNA was in saliva found in the gusset of the victim’s panties.

When this evidence was put to him by gardai after he was rearrested and questioned in September 2020, Det Garda Cowan said O’Donovan put it down to the “hoppin’ and trottin”.

“I falsely imprisoned her but did not sexually assault her,” O’Donovan told gardai.

Det Garda Cowan said O’Donovan has a number of convictions for public order, possession of drugs, driving offences and an aggravated burglary, which occurred on March 17, 2019 in Tipperary.

“He was on bail for that matter at the time (of this incident). He had an axe and broke in the back door. A woman was asleep on a couch. He chased her up the stairs. A 16-year-old was asleep upstairs. When he realised there was another person there he fled,” said Det Garda Cowan.

Mark Nicholas SC, who represented O’Donovan, said his client and the woman asleep on the couch were on-and-off partners at the time. He said they have a four-year-old child so there was “some reconciliation” following the aggravated burglary. Mr Nicholas said the mother of their child has died.

The victim read out her own impact statement in Limerick Circuit Court.

She said everything Denis O’Donovan has “done to me has completely destroyed my life” and what happened on the night in question was “terrifying, traumatising, degrading and disgusting”.

“To be dragged into his car, driven at speed down the road, to have to try to escape by jumping out of a moving car, only for him to grab me with both hands choking me violently, pinning me down with one hand on my throat while he sexually assaulted me in a disgusting degrading way, made even more degrading and disgusting by the fact that I had my period,” she said.

The woman said no words can ever fully describe the absolute terror of being choked, and believing she was going to die. 

After the attack, she said she couldn’t eat or sleep and lay awake at night listening for fear of him returning. She told the court she was “going to kill myself” and spent weeks in a secure mental health unit due to the trauma. 

“I have suffered panic attacks, flashbacks and nightmares since the attack on an almost daily basis. I became confined to home because the fear and panic was overwhelming. I changed from being a happy confident person who loved the outdoors – hiking and walking – to not being able to leave my house for years. He has taken everything I enjoyed about life away from me,” she said.

The woman said she knows the importance of cervical screening but can’t bring herself to go for a smear test. 

“I turned to alcohol to try to block out the trauma. I went from never really being a big drinker to developing a serious alcohol problem. For him to put me through a trial which was so daunting, as I had never been to court in my life, and to have to sit and listen to his outrageous and disgusting lies, felt like another attack.

“He has taken years of my life that I will never get back. He may be going to jail, but I feel like I’ve been in jail for the last four years.”

She said it has been an incredibly difficult and dark time in her life, but today she is a stronger person for surviving everything he has done to her. 

“I refuse to let him destroy the rest of my life. He is a dangerous sexual predator and everyone should know his name,” said the woman.

She thanked Judge Dermot Sheehan, the DPP and all the guards involved in this case, in particular Garda Noelle Fitzgerald and Garda Robert Young. 

“I especially want to thank Det Garda Chris Cowan for all his hard work on this case and for the kindness and compassion he has shown to me. I cannot speak highly enough of him,” said the woman, who also thanked a friend for the strength and love she gave her through the darkest times which saved her. 

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Mr Nicholas said O’Donovan’s position, still, is that there was no sexual assault element.

“He made admissions he was there. She tried to get out (of the car) and he pulled her back in and there was a scuffle. He does express regret. There is a softening of his position within the limited narrative.

“He comes from a fine family. He tragically lost his mother when he was four. He did an apprenticeship in engineering maintenance and has worked in ground works ever since,” said Mr Nicholas, who added that it was a well-paid role but O’Donovan spent a lot of it on drink. 

He described O’Donovan previous convictions as “drink sodden” and said he had consumed alcohol prior to the aggravated burglary. The court heard that he had been in pubs before he sexually assaulted the victim in this case. 

“He has a four-year-old girl. Her mother died tragically last year. He has access and pays maintenance,” said Mr Nicholas, who asked Judge Sheehan to measure matters as best he can.

Judge Sheehan said he needed time to consider sentencing and adjourned matters until June 7. O’Donovan was remanded in continuing custody. He has been in prison for 107 days on this matter.

Judge Sheehan said nothing should be published that would identify the victim but the accused can be named.

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