'He is a dangerous sexual predator': Limerick man found guilty of sexual assault

'He Is A Dangerous Sexual Predator': Limerick Man Found Guilty Of Sexual Assault
Denis O’Donovan (pictured) was found guilty of false imprisonment, sexual assault and assault causing harm following a trial at Limerick Circuit Criminal Court.
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David Raleigh

A woman kidnapped and sexually assaulted by a Limerick father of one, told her attacker in court: “I refuse to let (you) destroy the rest of my life”.

Denis O’Donovan (38) can be named after the judge lifted reporting restrictions in the case.


The woman told O’Donovan’s sentencing hearing on Friday: “He is a dangerous sexual predator and everyone should know his name.”

O’Donovan, with an address at Ballyryan, Donohill, Co Tipperary, is well known in the construction industry as a machine operator and building site groundworker.

He had pleaded not guilty at his trial last April to one count of falsely imprisoning the woman, as well as three counts of sexually assaulting her, and one count of assault causing her harm, on the night of January 17th, 2020.

A jury at Limerick Circuit Criminal Court did not accept O’Donovan’s pleas, and convicted him on all but one count of sexual assault.


Detective Garda Chris Cowan told the sentencing hearing that O’Donovan imprisoned and sexually assaulted the victim while he was on bail for an aggravated burglary in which he used an axe to break into another woman’s house as she slept, at 2am on March 17th, 2019.

He pleaded guilty in relation to the 2019 incident, and received a three-year suspended sentence.

O’Donovan has previous convictions, mostly for public order offences which were mostly related to him being intoxicated.

Prosecution barrister, Lily Buckley BL, told the court that on the night in question, O’Donovan called to the victim’s rural home, and when the woman ventured outside with a torch to see who was there, O’Donovan “pulled her into his car and kept her against her will”.


O’Donovan drove the woman to an isolated area and started to “choke” her, with his two hands around her neck.

“She was pinned, her hips were wedged between the two front seats and she was being choked,” Ms Buckley said.


O’Donovan “pulled down” the victim’s pants and underwear and “repeatedly” sexually assaulted her while holding her down against her will.

The woman made her escape when she asked O’Donovan if she could get more comfortable in the car.


After fleeing the car, “the woman was so desperate to get away she ran through briars in a ditch”.

“She stayed there listening out for (O’Donovan’s) car, and ultimately she returned to her house and made a 999 call and alerted gardaí.”

The woman was medically examined at a Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU) and was found to have sustained bruising and trauma around her genitals, knee, thigh and shin, as well as scratch marks on her face and arms.

Marks on the victim’s neck were “consistent with being choked”, the examination found.


The victim told gardaí that she was not expecting O’Donovan at her home, and she denied his claims that he had called to her home to drop off cannabis.

O’Donovan was arrested on two occasions, and denied he had sexually assaulted the woman.

He was charged after his DNA was found in salvia discharge discovered on the victim’s underwear.

O’Donovan’s DNA was also discovered on a cardigan the woman was wearing on the night, and damage to the cardigan was found to have been “consistent with a struggle”.

The DNA results produced by Forensic Science Ireland “strongly supported” that O’Donovan had sexually assaulted the victim, the court heard.

Gardaí also found the victim’s torch in the briar covered ditch where she had hid from O’Donovan, as well as car tyre marks in the area where he had assaulted her.

No words can ever fully describe the absolute terror

Fighting back tears, the woman read a victim impact statement to the court, describing the attack as “absolutely terrifying, traumatising, degrading and disgusting”.

“I was dragged into his car, driven at speed down the road, and had 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.

“No words can ever fully describe the absolute terror of being choked, and believing I was going to die.

“After the attack I couldn't eat or sleep, I used to stay awake at night listening for fear of him returning.”

“A year after the attack, I couldn't cope with the trauma anymore. I was suicidal and was going to kill myself, I had it all planned, I had a breakdown and ended up in hospital, spending weeks in a secure mental health unit.

“I have suffered panic attacks, flashbacks and nightmares since the attack on an almost daily basis, and I became confined to home because the fear and panic was overwhelming.”

She added: “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. has taken everything I enjoyed about life away from me.”

The physical injuries from that night have healed, but the trauma will stay with me for the rest of my life

“After all of this, for him to put me through a trial which was so daunting, as I had never been to court in my life before all of this, 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 the last four years. The physical injuries from that night have healed, but the trauma will stay with me for the rest of my life.

“It has been an incredibly difficult and dark time in my life, but today I am a stronger person for surviving everything he (O’Donovan) has done to me and I refuse to let him destroy the rest of my life.”

The woman said she wanted to thank the Director of Public Prosecutions for bringing the case against O’Donovan, as well as the judge and jury at the trial.

She also thanked a friend for supporting her and gardaí.

Judge Dermot Sheehan said he needed time to consider his sentence and remanded O’Donovan in continuing custody for sentencing on June 7th.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can call the national 24-hour Rape Crisis Helpline at 1800-77 8888, access text service and webchat options at drcc.ie/services/helpline/ or visit Rape Crisis Help. 

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