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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Scarred for the rest of their lives

“..that were in a car which was set on fire”

The middle of an emergency transmission from a paramedic picked up on the scanner. My ears cocked that Sunday evening as I tried to come to terms with what I had just heard or thought I had heard. I ran into the other room to the see could I hear some more but it was gone, all quiet.Nah..couldn't be I shrugged. It soon hit the news, two children burned after the car they were sitting in was set on fire in Moyross.

5 year old Gavin and 7 year old Millie Murray are left with permanent scars of the attack which was perpetrated by three teenagers in Pineview Gardens on September 10th 2006.

18 year old Jonathan O'Donoghue, 18 year old John Mitchell and 17 year old Robert Sheehan were all in court last Friday as the city and country watched to see would justice be done or would the scum get off with it.

The Independent sums the story up better than I ever could,

The attack arose after Sheehan and O'Donoghue were refused a lift by Sheila Murray to Limerick District Court while she was visiting a friend, Aishling Bond at 69 Pineview Gardens. The pair left shouting threats at Mrs Murray. O'Donoghue and Sheehan went to nearby Casey's shop where they met John Mitchell.

They returned in the direction of Ms Bond's house where O'Donoghue and Mitchell climbed into her back garden, while Sheehan walked over to his own house to act as lookout.

Judge Carroll Moran heard that paraphernalia for petrol bombs was available in Pineview Gardens after two violent nights when arson attacks were launched at gardai. In the garden, O'Donoghue and Mitchell siphoned petrol into an empty plastic Lucozade bottle and put magazine paper into the nozzle of the bottle and lit it. O'Donoghue threw the bottle which went in through the rear side window of the green Toyota Corolla and engulfed the children in flames.
Prosecuting on behalf of the State, John O'Sullivan said as a result, "the children were turned into human fireballs".

Sheila Murray pulled Millie from the inferno while Gavin was rescued by neighbours, including Robert Sheehan. The children were rushed to the Mid-Western Regional Hospital before being transferred to Crumlin Childrens' Hospital. A statement from Consultant Plastic Surgeon at Crumlin, Dr David Orr said the children suffered life threatening burns and would have "severe permanent disfigurement".

Gardai responded fairly quickly in this case, arresting O`Donoghue and Mitchell soon after the attack. Clearly guilt ridden, Sheehan walked into Mayorstone Garda station next and handed himself in.

One teen was granted bail but was told he must stay away from Limerick city and reside at an address given to Gardai along with a nightly curfew.

Appeals were made from clergy for calm, funds were set up and Millie and Gavin were treated like movie stars even appearing on the Late Late toy show. People tried to do all they could to make their recovery process just that little bit easier as the periodical court cases began.

The Murray house came under attack on October 8th of 2006. A brick was thrown through the front window of the family home. The mother, along with six of her kids were forced to flee their Pineview Gardens house after the attack. It was clear they were not wanted in the area, so they moved. This in itself was another rigmarole.

After numerous failed objections form locals, the council finally found a house for the family in a cratloe road housing estate. The council purchased the house worth around 270,000.

On January 2nd the three accused were back in court and there were fears of the case collapsing as the judge expressed concern that the book of evidence on the two 18 year olds was still not prepared. In February, the mother, Sheila defended herself against allegations that she smuggled drugs into Limerick prison, saying she was the victim of a hate campaign.

The year long chronicle culminated in a packed court house last Friday as the sentencing was read aloud to a anxious ever ready courthouse full to the brim of journalists, family members and other general nosey bastards.(you know the kind)

O'Donoghue, “the main mover” in the attack (seen right) was given 8 years in jail with the final two years suspended. Mitchell was given a 7 year sentence with the final two years suspended. Sheehan was given just two years for his involvement after the court determined his role in the attack was considerably less and also due to the fact that he tried to rescue the two children form the inferno. The prosecution had accepted from the very beginning that the three delinquents did not know at the time of throwing the Molotov cocktail that the kids were in the car. The response of Sheehan to rescue the children proved this.
Judge Moran ordered that all three be under the supervision of the probation services upon release.

A portion of Sheila Murray's victim impact statement as read in court:

"I watched Millie and Gavin going through intensive burns treatment everyday.
When they were coming off the sedation they were in terrible pain. Most of the time I had to leave the room because I couldn't stand to watch them anymore. Millie and Gavin will need a lot more treatment, more skin grafts and Gavin will need to have his ear fixed. They will be scarred physically for the rest of their lives, aside from the psychological effects it has had and will have on them.

Myself and all my children are having counselling because of all this. Since Millie and Gavin came out of hospital in January they have their dressings/creams done by nurses every second day and physio three times a week.

They have to wear special "jobst garments" all over their burns. Gavin has one for his back, neck and his head, as most of his burns are on his head.
Our whole lives now revolve around Millie and Gavin's treatment. We can't go anywhere or arrange anything, like a break away for them or the rest of the children, because of their treatment.

I have to sit up most nights with Gavin as he gets bad nightmares. They are both frightened to sleep on their own so they sleep with me.

Our lives will never be the same again and Millie and Gavin will never get their full health back. They are scarred for the rest of their lives."

..Scarred for the rest of their lives.