herald

Sunday 17 December 2017

€390k for garda threatened by a masked gunman

Former garda sergeant Sean Walzer
Former garda sergeant Sean Walzer

A FORMER garda sergeant, who has lived in the shadow of a gunman for almost a decade, has been awarded more than €390,000 compensation for severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and loss of career and social and family life.

Mr Justice Bernard Barton told ex-Sergeant Sean Walzer the experience of seeing a masked gunman point a gun at him in the darkness of a lonely lane had already cast a long and intrusive shadow over his life.

In a reserved judgment on a garda compensation hearing in the High Court the Judge said Mr Walzer, of Mullinahone, Co Tipperary, had been confronted at gunpoint in Kelly's Lane, Mullinahone, by a man wearing a Balaclava mask.

Bruce Antoniotti, SC, who appeared with barrister Brid O'Flaherty for Walzer, had earlier told the court that Sgt Walzer and a colleague had stopped in Kelly's Lane shortly after 1am on September 5, 2005 to check out a suspicious car.

The masked man, who had a gun pointed at the two gardai, had become aggressive and abusive told them to "get the f**k out of here now or else." He eventually sped off with two others in the car which the gardai followed but lost after a high-speed chase.

Judge Barton said that three days later Sergeant Walzer left the garda station following a late night shift.

flashback

"He closed the door behind him and while standing on the doorstep he was overcome by a feeling of extreme fear and experienced a flashback to the confrontation at gunpoint," the judge said.

Three years later Sergeant Walzer was unable to continue after having been diagnosed with PTSD and had to quit the force. He found himself unable to face his work and life itself. He was prescribed antidepressants and tranquillisers. His energy levels decreased and he became obese.

Flashbacks, panic attacks and unnatural and unusual fears led to the development of sleep apnoea syndrome. He became tense, irritable and intolerant and despite counselling and psychotherapy had to continue taking medication.

With the support of his friends he returned to playing golf and became the captain of his local club in 2012. He was unable to discharge the functions of captaincy and resigned. He later developed suicidal ideation and had been admitted to St Patrick's Institution.

Mrs Walzer, who the judge described as a devoted wife, mother and home-maker, told the court she and her family had been through 10 years of misery.

incident

"The consequences of this illness have been devastating… completely altering him from the man he was," Judge Barton said.

Mr Walzer, in preparing his case told his solicitors, Hughes Murphy, that the 2005 incident had stolen some of the most valuable years of his life that he could never get back. He had been robbed of his pride and made a prisoner in his own life.

Judge Barton awarded Mr Walzer €125,000 for pain and suffering to date and €50,000 for suffering into the future. He added €46,143.36 for vouched special damages and €170,000 for past and future medical expenses and loss of earnings - a total of €391,143.36.

hnews@herald.ie

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