Burglar jailed after rape threat at women's home

Man pleaded guilty to burglary with the intention of committing rape and sexual assault, a charge usually more associated with theft

Two terrified young women had to arm themselves with a brush to beat away a much older man who forced himself into their home in Tralee, Co Kerry, warning he was going to rape one and force her partner into a sexual act.

Christopher Healy, of Mitchels Avenue, Tralee, was handed down a four-year sentence with the final year suspended at the Circuit Criminal Court in Killarney today.

He pleaded guilty to burglary with the intention of committing rape and sexual assault, a charge usually more associated with theft, the court was told.

Healy has 160 previous convictions, mostly for drunken public order offences.

However, in 2003 he was convicted of breaking into a convent in Tralee and for that he served a significant sentence. The motive there was financial, not sexual, said his barrister Brian McInerney. This was his first offence of a sexual nature, the court heard.

Prosecutor Tom Rice told how the two women, aged in their 20s,  were at home at 11pm on March 23 last, watching television. 

They felt secure in their area and their door was closed, though not locked, investigating Garda Detective Anthony Wharton replied to Mr Rice.

“Healy entered the house and tried to force his way into the sitting room, shouting at one of the women, 'I’m going to rape you… shove it up you', the court was told.

To the second woman, he shouted he was going to get her to perform a sexual act on him.

His demeanour was extremely “aggressive” and both women were in a state of fear, Garda Wharton agreed.

They armed themselves with a brush and started beating him away, eventually getting him as far as the door. They alerted gardaí who were quickly on the scene. Healy was arrested three days later. He made full admissions and said he was “mouldy” (ie, drunk) at the time.

The women were not in court. The woman who was the principal victim of the attack, in a victim impact statement read by Det Garda Wharton, told how she had known the man all her life. She finds herself worrying what will happen when he gets out of prison as her partner does not drive, she wrote.

However, she also said she did not want to think of the accused being stuck in prison, because when he was sober he does not act the way he did, and she felt he needed help.

Both Mr McInerney and Judge Helen Boyle said they were impressed by what counsel said was the Christian attitude of the woman.

Mr McInerney said Healy’s now elderly mother had tried to do her best for him all his life, but he had a severe alcohol problem and was considered a street drinker in Tralee. When sober he was not problematic.

Judge Boyle noted the guilty plea, sparing the women of having to come to court.

He was abusive, he had forced his way into their home with threats of an explicit sexual nature to rape and “other pretty horrible words”, the judge noted from the evidence. His motive was sexual and the young women had to arm themselves with a brush to defend themselves and get him out of the house.

“You have never lived independently and have lived with the assistance of your mother all your life. You have a large number of convictions. The most serious prior to this was when you broke into a convent seeking money,” said the judge.

He had a lifelong alcohol problem, a learning difficulty, was mildly mentally handicapped, a low IQ, was illiterate, barely numerate, and left school at age 14. He had never worked and had never received special education, Judge Boyle noted from psychiatric and probation reports.

The sentencing

Most burglaries were committed to steal, said the judge. “This is a very different motivation, and a very serious motivation."

There was the aggression and the invasion of a dwelling and threats of a sexual nature. He had caused terror and fear to the young women living there, said Judge Boyle.

She sentenced him to four years in prison, suspending the last year. The sentence was backdated to March 26 as he has been in custody since his arrest.

He has also been told that, on his release, he cannot interfere or communicate with the young ladies.

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