aggravated burglary

Aggravated burglary: ‘He held her up by her hair and abused her’

A man charged with aggravated burglary and assault has been remanded in custody following a special sitting of Longford District Court late on Thursday night, June 24.

William Stokes (27) of Ballynagoshen, Edgeworths- town, Co Longford, was arrested shortly after 1pm on Thursday afternoon on suspicion of aggravated burglary.

At last Thursday night’s court sitting, Gda Brendan Lynn told Judge Kevin Kilrane that gardaí would be objecting to bail under O’Callaghan rules, citing the seriousness of the charges as reason for the objection.

Giving his evidence, Gda Lynn explained that, on the night of April 30, 2021, into May 1, 2021, at approximately midnight, Mr Stokes allegedly entered the home of a woman in the Mostrim Oaks housing estate.

The woman, who is known to Mr Stokes allegedly let him into her home and a conversation took place.

“He then grabbed her around the waist,” said Gda Lynn, “she retreated to the sitting room but he followed her, grabbed her upper arm and attempted to kiss her.

“He followed her into the kitchen, grabbed her arm and turned her around. He grabbed her face and squeezed her cheeks and tried to kiss her again,” said Gda Lynn, adding that the woman had made it clear these advances were not wanted.

The woman managed to get away and ran upstairs to try and lock herself in the bedroom, the court heard, but she tripped and fell and landed on the bottom step.

It is alleged Mr Stokes stood over her and made comments on her size and how easily she can be grabbed. He then left the house.

“In support of that charge, (the injured party) took photographs of the bruising he caused. Her first disclosure regarding the assault was photographs forwarded to her friend who gave a statement,” said Gda Lynn.

He went on to give evidence of a second incident, which allegedly took place on June 10, 2021.

“He was seen in Mostrim Oaks by a witness who alleged she saw a vehicle leaving the estate,” he explained.

The court heard that Christopher Stokes had alleged he was travelling towards Longford when he saw a vehicle flashing its headlights behind him. He pulled in and stopped at Fallon’s Hardware on the Dublin Road and got out of his vehicle.

William Stokes allegedly pulled in behind him and exited his vehicle. Christopher Stokes alleges that, as he was approaching, the accused sprayed him with a “noxious liquid into the face, causing a burning sensation”.

That alleged assault, the court heard, took place at 7.45pm, and at around 8pm, it is alleged William Stokes returned to the woman’s home in Mostrim Oaks.

“She opened the door after hearing a knock and Mr Stokes grabbed her neck and pushed her against the wall in the hallway and then pushed her onto the stairs,” said Gda Lynn adding that Mr Stokes allegedly abused the injured party verbally and accused her of being involved with Christopher Stokes.

“He left the house and returned with a metal pole. He held it over her head and held her up by her hair and continued to (verbally) abuse her,” said Gda Lynn.

“Her children aged one, three, four and five years old saw all of this occur. The one year old was pushing Mr Stokes’ leg and the three year old was asking him to ‘leave mammy alone’.

“He left the house and a neighbour who heard the shouting and roaring looked out the window and saw Mr Stokes with a metal bar.”

Turning to the bail application, Gda Lynn explained that gardaí would be objecting due to concerns for the injured party.

“It is my strong opinion that if Mr Stokes is granted bail, he will interfere with the witnesses in this case. They’re personally known to him,” he said.

“It is alleged that after he left the house, he returned and warned her not to go to the gardaí, so he is capable of issuing threats. I do believe he will interfere with the witnesses.”

Solicitor for the defence, Fiona Baxter, put it to Gda Lynn that her client resides with his wife in Edgeworthstown and that he has four children from a previous relationship and is therefore “deeply rooted in the community”.

“I accept he has ties to Edgeworthstown, yes,” said Gda Lynn.

Ms Baxter explained that the injured party had been the partner of Mr Stokes’ brother who had passed away and that “following on from his death, Mr Stokes has offered support and been a frequent visitor”.

Gda Lynn said he accepted that Mr Stokes was a frequent visitor, but not that he offered support. He also accepted there was no medical evidence from either incident or DPP directions before the court, and that the injured party was not before the court.

“We’re now two weeks on from the incident. Have there been any issues reported between the families?” Ms Baxter asked.

“No,” said Gda Lynn.

Ms Baxter then asked if a cash lodgement and a promise to stay away from Edgeworthstown would “ease the concerns” of gardaí.

“The concern is the injured party is extremely fearful that there may be repercussions to the fact that she gave a statement to gardaí,” Gda Lynn replied.

Giving evidence of the assault on Christopher Stokes, Gda David Buckley explained that gardaí were called to the scene of an alleged assault on June 10 at Fallon’s Hardware. They attended the scene but nobody was there. They were then called to a house in Springlawn where Christopher Stokes lives.

“On arrival, I observed Christopher Stokes with severe pain to his eyes. He was washing his eyes,” said Gda Buckley.

“He informed me that he was assaulted by William Stokes with pepper spray. In my experience of pepper spray, it looked like that’s what it was.

“The following night, he gave a statement to myself. He also attended Midoc that evening and I have consent forms for medical reports.”

In her cross examination of the witness, Ms Baxter put it to Gda Buckley that Christopher Stokes continued to drive after the incident, which Gda Buckley accepted. She also noted that there were no independent witnesses or CCTV footage, which Gda Buckley also accepted.

He also accepted the fact that there were no further issues in the two weeks since the incident, that there were no DPP directions yet and no medical evidence before the court as of last week.

Inspector Dave Jordan, in response to Ms Baxter’s second mention of the two weeks that had passed since the latest offence, reminded court, “the first incident took place on April 30. The next incident was six weeks later. It doesn’t have to be two weeks.”

Mr Stokes, taking to the witness box, explained that he lives with his wife and promised Judge Kilrane that he “won’t come back before you with any breach of bail.”

Led by Ms Baxter, he promised the court he would not contact the witnesses, that he would obey a strict curfew if bail was granted, that he would stay out of Edgeworthstown, lodge a cash sum for bail, and turn up to court sittings.

Judge Kilrane explained that, if the case were solely about the assault on Christopher Stokes, he would grant bail. But the female victim lives alone with her children, he noted, before acknowledging the question raised by Ms Baxter regarding a lack of witnesses.

“Because there are no witnesses the objection to bail is more potent,” said Judge Kilrane.

“The evidence depends completely on (the woman’s) evidence and were her evidence to collapse by way of interference, there could be no case. She is a key witness and deserves all the protection the court can afford. Why was he a regular caller and why was his support conditional?

“She clearly is highly vulnerable, living alone with her children, and these allegations are extremely serious. She was assaulted but she was threatened not to report it to the gardaí.

“I have no doubt she is in serious fear and dread of the defendent and the fact that he issued a warning not to go to the gardaí indicates that he will contact her directly or indirectly.

“The fact that it is alleged Christopher Stokes had a relationship with the woman, and was assaulted as a result, strengthens the case that he wanted her to himself,” Judge Kilrane continued.

“He saw her in a vulnerable situation and had a view of what his future with her could be.

“I believe he is not a flight risk. But I believe he would interfere with the witness. I also believe he would commit further offences such as entering the house for the purpose of assaulting her, or getting others to do so.

“In those circumstances, I’m refusing bail,” he concluded, remanding Mr Stokes in custody to July 1, 2021, by video link in Mullingar District Court for DPP directions.

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First published in the Irish Examiner

Written by Jessica Thompson