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Man jailed for attacking 79-year-old widower in his home with clawhammer

The widower, now aged 84, told a court he survived “by the grace of God”.

A MAN IS to serve eight and a half years in prison for attacking a then 79-year-old widower in his home with a clawhammer and, on the same day, stabbing and robbing a visually-impaired man. 

The widower, now aged 84, who was attacked with a clawhammer and stabbed multiple times, told a court he survived “by the grace of God”. 

At a previous hearing, the widower said he opened his front door to a woman who was seeking shelter from the rain. 

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard the pensioner knew the woman as Christine Ward (36) as she had called to his address five or six times previously asking for money and each time he had given her small sums of €5, €10 or €20. 

Once Ward was in the hallway, the court heard, she was followed into the house by her former partner Derek Bewley (48), who was wielding a claw hammer. 

Ward (36) pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary at a house in Artane on 2 November 2018, with seven other counts taken into consideration. 

Ward was sentenced last month to five and a half years in prison with the final 18 months suspended for three years, to run consecutively to a four-and-a-half-year sentence for robbery.

Passing sentence today on Bewley, Judge Orla Crowe said that both accused carried out two offences within three hours of each other against vulnerable persons. 

Judge Crowe said Bewley was armed with an object, and he and Ward were both actively involved in the offending. 

Judge Crowe sentenced Bewley to four and a half years in prison for the robbery of the visually-impaired man and seven and a half years in prison for the aggravated burglary of the widower, which are to run consecutively.

She suspended two years of the overall sentence, reducing it to 10 years and then further suspended 18 months of the sentence for three years to aid in rehabilitation. 

Bewley pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary, possession of a hammer and stealing a wallet containing €600 during the same incident. 


Garda Brian Morrissey told prosecuting counsel that then 79-year-old widower had answered his doorbell at 8pm on the night to Ward, who asked if she could come in for a minute out of the rain. 

Ward came into the man’s hallway and started crying, saying her cancer was back and she couldn’t take it anymore, adding, “How can I tell my kids I’m going to die?”.

Her phone then lit up, and her co-accused, Bewley, came into the hallway with a clawhammer, shouting and demanding money. 

A struggle ensued when the widower tried to grab the clawhammer, and he was struck in the ear with it, shattering his hearing aid. 

The man was also stabbed repeatedly on his hands and was bleeding heavily as he made his way from his front door to his kitchen, leaving a trail of blood. 

Ward, with an address at De Paul Ireland, Little Britain Street, Dublin 7 and Bewley, with an address at North William Street Flats, Dublin 1, robbed the man’s wallet, which contained €600 in cash, of which he had collected €520 from the post office that morning. 

They also stole his phone and his Skoda Octavia car. 

Because he had no car, the victim had to walk from Artane to Coolock village to summon help from his son. 

He was brought to Beaumont Hospital, and a medical report said he had been stabbed multiple times. He received 25 stitches in his hands and arms and sustained severe bruising to his ribs and left ear. 

The victim had to receive a blood transfusion, such was his blood loss, the court heard.

Victim impact

In a victim impact statement read out on his behalf, the man said his economic losses totalled €4,775. 

This figure includes the loss of the cash in his wallet, his housekeys, his car keys and his iPhone worth €900. 

The court heard his hallway and kitchen had to be redecorated due to damage caused by blood spattering at a cost of €3,000. 

The man said he was a quiet, deeply private person who had lost his independence and his privacy since the night he was attacked in his own home. 

He said he suffers from PTSD and gets startled every time he hears the doorbell ring. He has become reliant on sleeping tablets and has lost all trust in people, the court heard. 

The man said his life changed forever when someone that he had shown kindness and charity to came to his house armed and with an accomplice. 

He said he genuinely thought he was going to die that night and that his son had to move in with him afterwards to ensure his safety. 

“My faith is very important to me, and it’s clear that it was only for the grace of God that I survived that night,” the man wrote. 

He said he used to enjoy going to the post office to collect his pension and having cash in his wallet and that he no longer does this anymore. 

Judge Crowe asked if Ward did have cancer at the time, and her defence counsel, Cathal McGreal BL, replied, “There was no cancer, but there certainly are children.” 


The former couple also pleaded guilty separately to robbing a wallet and an iPhone from a visually impaired man earlier on the same date, 2 November 2018, on Dublin’s North William Street. 

Garda Shane McGrath told Jennifer Jackson BL, prosecuting, that he was alerted of the robbery and he met the victim, a 56-year-old visually impaired man who had been walking from the post office when he was mugged. 

The man said a girl and a guy came up to him from behind and grabbed his wallet from his back pocket. 

He initially thought it was just a girl but then noticed another hand, and a struggle ensued. 

The victim said the man stabbed his right hand and his lower waist nine times with a sharp object and that the girl stabbed him on the left side of his face.

During the struggle, the man’s iPhone worth €300 fell out of his pocket, and the girl took it, and both accused ran away.

The victim was brought to the Mater Hospital and prepared a victim impact report which was read out on his behalf. 

The damage to his phone cost €280, while the repair of his specialist glasses cost €320. 

He suffered stab wounds under his left eye and nine stab wounds to his arm. 

The man said he no longer goes near groups and doesn’t go out at all after 6pm. 

He said he feels afraid and very vulnerable due to his visual impairment. 

The court heard that when Ward was arrested, she initially denied all involvement but later identified herself in CCTV footage. 

Bewley has 79 previous convictions, including theft, drug offences, assault, criminal damage and production of an article. 

John Moher, BL, defending, said: “A lifetime of addiction has reduced him to the level of this type of offending. The offence has all the hallmarks of drug-fuelled offending.” 

Counsel said his client had taken some steps in relation to his long-standing problem and has completed a five-week treatment programme. 

He said the mitigation in this case regarding his client doesn’t come close to balancing the scales. His plea was late, which dilutes its value. 

He asked the court to take into account that his client bears a heavy burden of responsibility for this offending. 

The court heard Bewley and Ward had been a couple who were in the same clinic and that once every few weeks, Bewley would buy a “rock” of crack, and she would buy a pack of gear or tablets. 


Imposing sentence, Judge Crowe said the widower in the case, who had shown nothing but kindness to Ward in the past, had been deliberately targeted in his home with a weapon.

She noted the age of the injured party and that Bewley has relevant previous convictions. She placed this offence at the upper end of the scale and noted the maximum sentence available was life in prison. 

Judge Crowe said the aggravating factors in relation to the stabbing were that the injured party was a vulnerable person, the level of violence used upon the injured party and that Bewley took a bench warrant. 

She said Bewley’s mitigation for both offences included his guilty plea, his remorse, his efforts to deal with his addictions and the fact that he is an enhanced prisoner.

Judge Crowe placed Bewley under the supervision of the Probation Services for 18 months post-release. She backdated this sentence to when he went into custody on this matter.

Claire Henry & Jessica Magee