Two Urlingford men who assaulted a fast-food delivery man by holding him in a ‘bear hug’ and threatening him with a shotgun, believed it was done in 'joking' manner, heard Thurles District Court.
Brian John Doyle, of Woodsgift, Urlingford, Kilkenny, and James Tobin, of Killahy, Tullaroan, Kilkenny, were both charged with assaulting Denis Queally, at Mr Doyle’s home address in Woodsgift, on the night of November 5, 2016.
Judge Elizabeth MacGrath heard that Mr Queally was delivering food to the two defendants just before midnight, when he knocked on the door of Mr Doyle’s house.
Mr Queally told the Court that he then rang a number, and was told the customers would “be down in five minutes.” Mr Doyle and Mr Tobin “showed up in a Nissan Almera” and he gave them their food. Doyle gave Mr Queally a €50 note and said he would wait while Mr Queally went to his car to get the change.
Mr Queally went back to Mr Doyle’s house to return the change, and as he knocked on a side door, he saw Doyle “standing there in the kitchen.” “I gave him his change,” said Mr Queally. “As I turned around, he (Tobin) grabbed me from behind in a bear hug.” There was a struggle as Mr Queally tried to shake Tobin off. Mr Queally then noticed “something stuck into the side of my leg.” He looked up and saw Doyle pointing a shotgun at him, “shouting something like ‘I’m going to blow your leg off’”. Mr Queally “grabbed the barrel of the gun” and forced it away from him. “I got free and opened the side door and ran to my car. I got into my car and drove back to Urlingford, and informed the people there what happened.”
Mr Queally had another delivery to make that night, but he was so shocked from the incident he went to the wrong estate in Gortnahoe. “I finished my shift and went home. I did not sleep at all that night.” He reported the incident the next day to Thurles Garda Station, and was referred to Urlingford, where he made a statement to Gardaí. “I was shocked and scared for my life,” added Mr Queally, who described Doyle and Tobin as “drunk and aggressive” on the night. He had given them “no reason” to carry out the incident, and did not really know the men.
Solicitor Mr Colin Morrissey, for the defendants, put it to Mr Queally that he was incorrect in asserting that the two men were “absolutely locked” from drink. Mr Doyle had only two drinks, and was getting up early the next day to go to Wexford, as he is involved in greyhounds. Mr Queally was allegedly in fear of his life, “but still managed to go to Gortnahoe. I must say I find that most peculiar,” said Mr Morrissey. “After undergoing an assault of the most serious kind, you decided to deliver a few chips to Gortnahoe.”
“I was so shocked I went to the wrong estate. I was in a state of shock,” said Mr Queally. “He pointed a gun at my left leg.” Mr Queally said he contacted a Solicitor, Mr JJ Fitzgerald, afterwards, but has not yet decided if he wants to pursue a personal injuries action against the two men. He wanted an apology and an explanation from them.
Mr Morrissey put it to Mr Queally that the allegations were made to obtain compensation from the two men. “I must put it to you, you thought there might be a few bob in this,” said Mr Morrissey, who provided evidence that three men were listed in a personal injuries claim in relation to the incident.
“Is that the first thing you would think of if you had a gun pointed at you,” responded Mr Queally. “The first thing I would do is I would go to the Guards,” said Mr Morrissey. “I was in a state of shock all night,” replied Mr Queally. “It makes no sense to assault a guy just delivering chips,” said Mr Morrissey.
“I could not get out of the house for two minutes because he had me in a bear hug,” added Mr Queally during cross examination.
Heather Graham, an employee of the ‘Wishing Well’ restaurant, gave evidence that at 11.15pm that night, she received a phone call from Doyle’s house, for an order of a chicken kebab box, later changed to two chicken kebabs. They had to ring back to clarify if they wanted chips for the second box, “and he said ‘yeah’,” said Ms Graham. The boxes were to be delivered about half an hour later.
Liam Comerford, a local pub owner, said he observed Doyle entering his pub on the night. He was satisfied that Mr Doyle was sober on his premises at the time.
Garda John Bolger said Mr Queally made a complaint to him concerning the incident of November 5, 2016. Arising from that, he went to the home of Brian Doyle, and spoke to his father. There were three guns in the house, belonging to Brian Doyle, his father, and Brian’s uncle.
These consisted of an “under and over” shotgun belonging to Brian Doyle, a single barrel shotgun belonging to Michael Doyle, and a third double barrel “side-by-side” shotgun belonging to John Doyle. All the guns had been in a gun box, but the key had been lost beforehand, so they were let out on the night in question.
Garda Bolger interviewed Brian Doyle, who admitted using the gun, but said he “was sure he (Queally) took it as a joke.” “There was no threat.” “He just walked out the door, it was all joking. He has it blown out of all proportion.” Doyle maintained he never threatened to “blow off” Mr Queally’s leg, and that the gun was not loaded during the incident.
Garda Bolger said Mr Queally appeared “quite shaken” while making the complaint.
In Court, Mr Doyle said he regretted picking up the shotgun, and that he was sober. He did not act in an “angry aggressive manner” and did not understand why these allegations were made. “I thought he was half laughing. He got the money and walked out.”
Inspector Pádraic Powell put it to Doyle that a “normal rational person would not do that.” “I don’t know why, it was stupid,” said Doyle in the Witness Box.
Insp. Powell maintained that if an article is produced during the course of an altercation, it was enough for the victim to believe he was in fear of being the subject of an assault, for the defendant to be proven guilty of the charge.
“Did you stick it in the back of his leg,” asked Insp Powell. “I was not pointing it at him, but I was facing him,” said Mr Doyle. “Do you acknowledge the fact he may have felt fear,” asked Insp. Powell. “Maybe,” answered Doyle.
Jamie Tobin said he had “4 or 5 drinks” that night, and denied grabbing Queally in a bear hug. “Why would he make that up,” said Insp. Powell. “I don’t know,” said Tobin. “He was laughing, I was laughing, Brian was laughing.” The way Doyle held the gun, there was “no threat,” to Mr Queally, insisted Mr Tobin.
Solicitor Mr Colin Morrissey told Judge MacGrath that there had to be reasonable doubt in the case, due to a conflict of evidence, lack of motive, and “inconsistencies” in Mr Queally’s version of events. The threshold of evidence had not been met to suggest both men were “locked”, giving rise to doubts on behalf of the Court, maintained Mr Morrissey.
Insp Powell said Mr Queally did report it to the Gardaí the next morning, and went to the wrong estate “in shock.” The level of alcohol taken could explain a motive, and Mr Doyle had admitted it wasn’t his “finest hour’” said Insp. Powell.
In her conclusion, Judge MacGrath said she had heard evidence from both parties, but the “common denominator” was that a gun was used. “Garda Bolger said Mr Queally was distressed in relation to the matter” and the Court has to accept that Mr Queally’s evidence is not “in any way questionable. There is no basis as to why he would engineer such a story.”
Judge MacGrath said she found the facts proven, and that she does accept the evidence of the complainant. The case was adjourned to June 26 next, for Mr Queally to make a Victim Impact Statement, and Judge MacGrath directed that both defendants undergo Probation Reports.