A 25-year-old man who “befriended” a woman separated from her friends during a hen party in Galway city before repeatedly raping and beating her in his flat has been given a 15 year sentence.
The young woman, who feared for her life, managed to escape through a bathroom window after an ordeal lasting several hours and ran completely naked to a nearby house for help.
Louis Sheils, formerly of Clifton Cresent, Newcastle, Galway, fled the flat before gardai arrived but was arrested two days later in Killarney with sterling currency and a bus ticket to Belfast in his possession.
Sheils pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to rape, oral rape, and false imprisonment of the girl at his rented accommodation on June 5, 2011. He has been in custody since his arrest two days later. Sheils has three previous convictions including assault.
Mr Justice Paul Carney said the case was “one of the worst of its type to come before the court” and merited a sentence of 15 years on the rape charges. He suspended the final three years after taking mitigating factors into account.
Mr Justice Carney imposed an eight year concurrent sentence on the false imprisonment charge. He declared the man a sex offender as required by law and ordered 18 months post release supervision.
In her victim impact statement the woman said she felt that Sheils was not going to let her go: "I fought for my life that night." She said she has been "scarred for life" by the image of her beaten face in the bathroom mirror during the attack.
She said she did not know what the rest of her life would hold, but after a celebration with friends had led to such a horrific episode, she felt the experience has left her a changed person.
The woman said she suffers recurring nightmares, panic attacks, low moods, anger and paranoia.
Conor Devally SC, prosecuting, said the Director of Public Prosecutions’ view was that the parameters of the offence were “at the very highest level”.
Sheils is a UK national who moved to Corofin, Co Clare with his family 17 years ago. He moved to Ennis in 2006 before living at various addresses in Galway. He was unemployed at the time of the offence and in receipt of job seekers allowance.
Testimonials on behalf of defendant
Michael O’Higgins SC, defending, handed in a number of testimonials on behalf of Sheils, who has been diagnosed with the autism spectrum disorder Aspergers syndrome. He also submitted a letter of apology from his client.
Sheils said in the letter he was “very sorry” and that it had taken him time to come to terms with what he done and he accepted he must be punished.
Counsel said Sheils was making “useful reliance” on the educational opportunities available in prison.
Mr O’Higgins said Sheils had faced up fairly and squarely to his misconduct and is insistent that he can learn and is capable of rehabilitation. He said other “respectable parties” had also expressed the view that Sheils could come out the other side.
He submitted that Sheils’ offending on the night was “tempered by some humanity” when he fetched some frozen peas from the fridge for his victim.
Mr O’Higgins said there was scope for a serious sentence to be imposed but one which gives some opportunity for rehabilitation, a path on which he said Sheils has already taken the first steps.
Superintendent Gerard Roche told Mr Devally that a group of young women were celebrating their friend’s hen party at a nightclub in the city.
During the night the young woman became separated from her friends after losing her mobile phone. She was feeling slightly unwell due to medication she had taken.
Outside the club she was “befriended” by Sheils who expressed concern for her predicament. He stayed with her for some time until they got a taxi and at no stage was there any intimacy between them.
Sheils brought the woman to his accommodation in Newcastle and told her she could make a phone call. The woman thought she would try to make her way home the next morning. Again there was no intimacy between them.
When she lay down on the sofa the woman had a sense Sheils was fumbling with her clothes and asked him to stop, then pushed him off. She was violently thrown onto her front and told not to scream. When she did so Sheils punched her in the face.
Sheils continued to punch her in the face and when she tried to scream he told her to shut up.
He began to squeeze the woman's throat hard as she coughed through her blood. She felt she was going to choke and was at all times attempting to fight back against him.
The woman was not sure if she passed out but began to understand if she was quiet he would stop. He instructed her to take off her clothes and in fear she did so.
Sheils then proceeded to assault, rape and sexually assault the woman over a sustained period.
She was aware of her blood dripping from her face on to the sofa as well.
Sheils went for a cigarette. When the woman grabbed her clothes and shoes and attempted to open the door, Sheils asked her what she thought she was doing and told her to get onto the bed.
Sheils ripped up the woman's clothing before raping her again. He then brought her to the shower where she saw her face for the first time. He continued his assault on her.
After the shower he tried to give her a drink but she did not want it and was sick in the toilet. The woman was in a panic having seen her face and thought she would not be allowed to leave alive.
She thought she would be able to escape from the bathroom but Sheils intervened and brought her back into the main room. There she entered some sort of slumber and woke at 7am.
Sheils resumed the assault, putting his forearm across her throat and having sex with her. The woman recalled telling herself to allow it to happen so it might end quicker.
Afterwards she had to go to the toilet but he went with her and sexually assaulted her.
The woman was aware this was an opportunity to escape and made her way to the toilet. She managed to get on to the windowsill and out the window before running completely naked across a green area to houses 50 yards away.
The woman was terrified and initially hid and threw away her jewellery in case it was making too much noise. People in a nearby house contacted an ambulance after she gave an almost entirely incoherent account of what had happened to her.
She was treated in hospital but was in such disarray she had difficulty in identifying where she had been. However she was willing to later accompany gardai back to the area.