A 28-year-old man who left his victim to die after subjecting him to a severe beating at a Gloucestershire caravan park has been jailed for six year seven months.
Victim James Quilligan had to have an emergency operation which involved placing a piece of his fractured skull inside his stomach so it could be kept alive and replaced when the time was right, Gloucester Crown Court heard yesterday (August 4).
Prosecutor James Haskell said Bernard McDonagh, 28, of Draycott, Cam, but formerly of Mount View Caravan Park, Naas Lane, near Brookthorpe, assaulted Mr Quilligan on June 23 last year.
The incident effectively started on the previous evening of June 22, 2020 when the two men were drinking in McDonagh’s home at Mount View and fell out with each other because Mr Quilligan vomited inside the caravan.
“This led to the two of them having a fight outside with Mr Quilligan’s wife, Mary, having to get involved and persuade the two men to stop fighting,” said Mr Haskell.
“Mrs Quilligan said that she was woken up by McDonagh banging on their caravan door, to which her husband immediately responded.
“Within seconds Mrs Quilligan got up and saw her husband lying on the floor in a heap and witnessed McDonagh kicking and thumping him while he lay on the ground. She describes her husband as being close to death.
“Mrs Quilligan told the police that she tried protecting her husband by slapping McDonagh, but this was mostly ineffective.
“When the violence towards her husband stopped, she shouted out to McDonagh, ‘Is he dead?’
“The police and ambulance were called with Mr Quilligan being found barely conscious. He was rushed to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital where he underwent emergency treatment for a bleed to his right ear and other abrasions to his right eye and chest. He also had a number of stab marks on him.”
He was placed into a medically induced coma and transferred to Southmead Hospital where he underwent further medical procedures to relieve a bleed on the brain and remained in intensive care for a week.
McDonagh evaded arrest until May 7 this year when he returned to the UK from Ireland. He was then arrested on suspicion of the attempted murder of Mr Quilligan.
In a written statement to police he claimed that he had not been at the caravan park at the time of the attack.
In a victim statement Mr Quilligan said he now has to wear a skull cap when he goes out and feels that he has lost his independence.
The court also heard that there had been a suggestion that two pieces of wood, similar to a baseball bats, had been used during the incident, but nobody witnessed this and it was later presumed that as one of the stakes contained both men’s DNA it had been used in the initial fight the night before.
Stephen Donnelly, defending, said: “A case such as this has ripples that run further afield that affect both families.
“The issue of pre-mediation has been raised as has the assault being an act of revenge. McDonagh accepts that he needs to be punished for his assault. This was a man to man bare knuckle fight and he now realises this is not acceptable behaviour and is unlawful.
“However, this is the behaviour expected by the travelling community. This is not meant as an excuse but an explanation.
McDonagh pleaded not guilty to the attempted murder of Mr Quilligan on June 23, 2020 but admitted causing him grievous bodily harm with intent. The prosecution then offered no evidence on the attempted murder charge and a not guilty verdict was recorded.
Judge Michael Cullum told McDonagh: “The reality is that this was a savage beating which was totally unwarranted. You left him motionless and effectively left him for dead.
“You are not a stranger to violence and I have considered if you should be regarded as dangerous in the eyes of the law, because of your previous record.”
The judge sentenced McDonagh to six years and seven months in prison and made him subject to a ten year restraining order not to contact his victim by any means.
From the dock McDonagh responded “I wish to apologise to the court and Mr Quilligan for my actions, Your Honour.”