Sick stalker jailed over threat to rape co-worker and her daughter in Cork

ireland
Sick Stalker Jailed Over Threat To Rape Co-Worker And Her Daughter In Cork Sick Stalker Jailed Over Threat To Rape Co-Worker And Her Daughter In Cork
In sentencing Judge Sean O'Donnabain said that it was a "very worrying case".
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Olivia Kelleher

A man who became obsessed with a colleague he hardly knew has been jailed for five years after he staged an attempted robbery with the intention of raping her at her home in Youghal, Co Cork.

Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard that salesperson James Steele (52) of Reavilleen, Roscarberry, Co Cork became fixated on his co-worker Una Ring, painting her car tyres pink, daubing her windows and windowsill with messages, and sending letters threatening the rape of her and her daughter.

Judge Sean O'Donnabhain was told that the harassment culminated in a serious incident on July 27th, 2020 when gardaí mounting a surveillance operation intercepted Mr Steele in a housing estate in Youghal.

He was in disguise and armed with a crowbar and duct tape as he attempted to break into the home of Ms Ring.

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Sgt John Sharkey of Youghal Garda Station said that Mr Steele knew of Ms Ring from work. However, they had no friendship or relationship of any sort.

In February 2020 he told her he was changing jobs and asked her to assist him with filing and IT in his new office in Cork.

On February 14th, 2020, as she attempted to help him with such a move, he made amorous approaches, which she rejected. From that date until April 1st, the married father-of-two sent her 20 text messages. Some of the messages contained apologies. He also offered her a job at his new workplace although he had no authority to hire.

She ignored the majority of his messages only answering ones that were work related. He then messaged saying he was going to call to her home. She became fearful and told him to stop contacting her.

Garda report

Contact ceased, but Ms Ring remained uneasy and on June 12th of last year she reported the matter to gardaí in Youghal.

On July 13th, 2020 she woke to find her car wheels had been painted pink. On July 13th she discovered graffiti on her front window and windowsill.

Nine square panels had been daubed with X and O and the words "I win" had been painted on her windowsill.

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The following day she went to her car to find a black envelope on her windscreen. It contained a typed letter with sexual innuendo. It also had two condoms.

Ms Ring made a further statement to gardaí and CCTV was installed at her home. On July 23rd 2020 she found another envelope on her windscreen. The writer expressed disappointment that sex hadn't occurred.

He told her they were going to have sex and that she had two options. These included leaving the back door of her property open for sex by consent. If this didn't occur he would rape her and her daughter. Ms Ring felt physically sick after reading the letter.

CCTV footage

She viewed the CCTV footage and identified James Steele as the person who had dropped off the letter.

Gardaí mounted a surveillance operation arising out of the seriousness of the incident. On July 27th at 3.45am gardai intercepted Mr Steele as approached the driveway of the house of his intended victim in Youghal.

Sgt Sharkey said that Steele was in disguise wearing a hat, a snood and with blue plastic gloves on his hands. He was arrested and gardaí found a 2ft crowbar on his person in addition to an orange rope and a roll of duct tape.

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During the course of a further search at Midleton Garda Station Mr Steele was found to have an 11-inch prosethetic dildo strapped to his body. The dildo was covered with a condom.

A search of his van was carried out with a lock picking set recovered. His home was also searched with gardaí finding envelopes which matched those sent to the home of Ms Ring. They also found orange rope and spray paint cans.

Steele was interviewed on four occasions. He admitted that he wrote the letters to Ms Ring after a bottle of wine. He said the tone of the letters was "sick" and "disgusting" and told gardaí that his actions would have left Ms Ring "mortified, scared and frightened."

He admitted that he was carrying the duct tape in order to tie the hands and mouth of Ms Ring.

Steele accepted responsibility for all the harassment and said that Ms Ring did not deserve any of his behaviour.

Australian conviction

The court was told that the Australian national had no convictions of any kind in this country. He has a conviction for indecent assault in Australia in 1986, for which he received a small monetary fine.

Tom Creed, SC, representing Mr Steele said that his client had made full admissions and co operated with gardaí whilst entering a plea of guilty at the earliest opportunity. He is being seen by the prison psychiatrist since his arrest in July of last year. Steele was previously refused bail in the case

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Una Ring made a powerful victim impact statement detailing the traumatic impact to her person of the behaviour of Mr Steele.

She suffers from PTSD and has seen her life and the life of her teenage children turned upside down by the incident. She said that being stalked is the most psychologically terrifying situation to be in.

'Destroyed my life'

"I was so certain that James Steele was going to break in and attack me that I used to tidy up the house each night before going to bed so that the house would be presentable for the crime scene photos. I even considered getting a tattoo with my name, town name and date of birth so that if he abducted and killed me that my body would be easily and quickly identified, that's how utterly terrified I was. I still am.

"James Steele has destroyed my life in the last year. I have been diagnosed with PTSD, have ongoing nightmares and have suffered from depression and anxiety. I am on four different types of medication just to get me through the day.

"I hate being alone. I even check the car to ensure that no one has broken in and is lying in the back waiting for me. When I close my eyes I can see James Steele walking towards my front door with a crowbar ready to attack. I dread to think what would have happened if it wasn't for the operation that gardai had put in place."

In sentencing Judge Sean O'Donnabain said that it was a "very worrying case”.

He noted the level of preparedness by Steele and his "deviousness" before jailing him for seven years with the last two years suspended.

Supervised

Mr Steele will be supervised in the community for five years after his release from prison. He has been warned not to contact Ms Ring or her family directly or indirectly at any time in the future.

Mr Steele had been charged and pleaded guilty to two counts of criminal damage, a count of harassment, possession of articles with intent to commit a robbery and a count of intended robbery with an intent to commit rape.

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Speaking after the sentencing Una Ring thanked gardaí for their support in the “harrowing” situation she found herself in.

She urged other people facing harassment to contact their local Garda station. She said that there should be "zero tolerance" for such crimes.

She added that her thoughts were with the family of Mr Steele at this difficult time.

 

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