Northern Ireland news

Manslaughter duo to be sentenced next month for attack on vulnerable pensioner

A "FRAIL and vulnerable'' pensioner died in hospital 10 months after he was attacked and robbed by two women, a court heard on Friday.

Rhona Mary Gracey (36), of Chobham Street, Belfast and Sharon Mary Faustina Harland (47), of Baltimore House, Bridge Street in Derry, both previously pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Daniel Guyler.

Prosecution counsel Neil Connor KC said Mr Guyler was a 75-year-old man who was "walked with a stick and we say he was physically vulnerable''.

"He was assaulted in the Waterside area of Derry on the evening of July 23, 2018. His hat and his wallet containing £400 in cash was taken from him,'' said Mr Connor.

"He sustained a serious head injury during the attack from which he never regained consciousness and died ten months later in hospital on May 1, 2019.''

He told Mr Justice O'Hara that medical evidence from the time of the assault reported he had "sustained injuries to both sides of his head and a defensive injury to his arm''.

Although no one saw the victim being robbed, witnesses at the scene reported the two defendants had been in the company of Mr Guyler shortly before the incident.

The prosecution counsel said Harland made comments at the scene to witnesses "which could amount to a confession''.

She said Mr Guyler had "sexually assaulted one of them'' and when asked if she had assaulted Mr Guyler "she smirked and said he was a paedophile''.

When confronted by another witness about what she had done, Harland replied: "Are you going to tout?''

"We say that those are incriminating remarks. As well as witness evidence, there was also forensic evidence. Mr Guyler's blood was found on Rhona Gracey's slipper, sock, T-shirt and jeans. His blood was also found on Sharon Harland's shoes and trousers.''

Mr Connor said among the aggravating features was the attack on Mr Guyler was "unprovoked'', the deceased was "frail and vulnerable'' and the assault took place in the course of a robbery.

Harland has 50 previous convictions, including 14 assaults and one serious assault of grievous bodily harm along with 13 dishonesty offences.

The court heard Gracey has 55 entries on her criminal record including 12 assaults, seven serious assaults, one for robbery and ten dishonesty offences.

"She was on licence at the time of this incident. In 2015, she was convicted of grievous bodily harm on a disabled man using a zimmer frame. The assault on him resulted in a severe traumatic brain injury caused by her fists.''

In 2014, during a robbery incident, she attacked a man with a hammer and he needed 33 stitches.

Two years earlier, she was convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm after she pushed a man through a window saying he was being "sleazy''.

In 2007, she was convicted of wounding after she stabbed a woman in her thigh.

Gracey's defence counsel Eugene Grant KC said: "There is no suggestion that this is a case of premeditation and was carried out spontaneously with a very substantial amount of alcohol and prescription drugs taken.''

Frank O'Donoghue KC for Harland said she has spent the last 27 months in the Shannon Clinic at Knockbracken Healthcare Centre in Belfast where she is being treated for paranoid schizophrenia which she had been suffering from at the time of the assault.

Mr Justice O'Hara said he would pass sentence early next month.

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