herald

Sunday 30 April 2017

Drug addict mum who attacked cousin and left her to die is jailed

Victim Bernadette Cash (20)
Victim Bernadette Cash (20)

A woman who attacked her cousin and left her to die has been sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison for manslaughter.

Donna O'Brien (25) sobbed as Judge Melanie Greally described how Bernadette Cash "died alone and unaided" after being attacked by O'Brien.

The victim was found dead the next day close to the same place she was left lying.

Judge Greally said that O'Brien and three men who were in the house at the time left the 20-year-old victim in a critical condition to die alone.

These men told gardai afterwards that O'Brien was rowing with the victim over alleged taunting about O'Brien's hand disfigurement and of her child.

Judge Greally said that the two women were cousins but their way of life had become "debased" and Ms Cash had become caught up with "dangerous individuals".

Addictions

Both women were very troubled and both had drug addictions, Caroline Biggs SC, defending, said. She added that the victim was living in squalor.

O'Brien of Cherryfield Lawn, Hartstown, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to the manslaughter of Ms Cash at her home in Warrenstown Walk, Blanchardstown on October 30, 2013.

Detective Sergeant Dan Callaghan told Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting, that Cash's body was discovered lying in the hallway of the house the morning after the assault.

The court heard that O'Brien repeatedly punched Ms Cash in the face after a row.

She was knocked to the ground and witnesses said that O'Brien then kicked her repeatedly in the head and body.

One man told gardai that he grabbed O'Brien to try to pull her away but she broke away and kicked Ms Cash again.

O'Brien admitted punching Ms Cash but denied she ever kicked the victim.

The witness told gardai that when the assault ended the victim "was not fighting back", was "in a bad way... hurt bad" and that "she was in trouble".

Another man said that her arm began moving and he was worried she was having a fit.

The four all left the house but one man went back into the house to see if the victim was moving but then left in a car with the others.

Judge Greally said that at this point Ms Cash may not have been fully cognisant due to the level of drugs in her system.

Toxicology reports showed the presence of morphine and codeine in the victim's body.

The court heard that the victim may have been alive for a number of hours after the assault.

A post mortem found that Ms Cash suffered brain swelling and died from head injuries. It also found the possibility of a pre-existing clot.

Judge Greally noted that O'Brien could not have been aware of the haematoma.

Injured

The judge also noted that O'Brien knew her victim had been badly injured in two severe assaults in the recent past but still persisted in striking her.

She said that O'Brien had left the house afterwards knowing and indifferent to the fact that Ms Cash was "in trouble" and in need of assistance.

She took into account in mitigation her appalling personal history, her remorse, her youth and the birth of her child.

Judge Greally imposed a four-and-a-half-year jail term on the manslaughter charge. She also imposed a consecutive 18-month suspended term for unrelated theft offences committed in September 2013.

In a victim impact statement the victim's mother, Bridget O'Brien, said that Ms Cash was a beautiful young girl and a loving daughter and mother.

"She would light up a room. She had personality and manner. She is missed terribly by all her family and friends," she said.

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