Londonderry claw hammer attack ‘akin to rape’

The courthouse in Londonderry.
The courthouse in Londonderry.

A man who caused ‘life changing injuries’ to a woman after he assaulted her with a claw hammer has been jailed for 11 years.

Londonderry Crown Court Judge Philip Babington said the hammer attack on the victim was ‘akin to rape’.

Aaron Francis Hyland, of St Katherine’s Road, Ballymurphy, Belfast, pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm with intent on October 3, 2014.

Judge Babington said the 22-year-old had shown ‘no mercy in his use of the weapon’ on the victim’s ‘most intimate parts.’

He added that the violence used by Hyland ‘was quite sickening and it is difficult to understand how he behaved as he did’.

The court heard that, on the night of the attack, the victim had been out in a local bar with Hyland and others. They had all consumed a considerable amount of alcohol and prescription drugs, the court was told.

There had been a ‘degree of flirtation’ between Hyland and the woman and they left the bar together to go back to her home.

Shortly before 10:30pm, the court was told, paramedics were called to the property.

They found the victim naked, unconscious and bleeding heavily from her intimate areas.

A hammer was discovered on the bedroom floor and there was blood in the bedroom, bathroom and along the upstairs corridor.

The court heard the woman had been dragged from the bedroom to the bathroom whilst bleeding heavily.

The victim was taken to hospital and required surgery. There were fears she would not survive surgery.

She sustained injuries to her private parts and part of her bowel was also damaged. This part of her bowel had to be removed and a colostomy bag was put in place. It is likely this will be permanent.

Hyland was arrested at the scene and, during police interview, made no comment.

He then provided a written statement in which he claimed the victim started bleeding after they had engaged in consensual sex.

The court was told the victim’s injuries were caused by a blunt instrument and could have been caused by the head or claw of the hammer.

It was also revealed that ‘very considerable force would have been required to cause the injuries’.

The court heard that the prospects of the victim making a full recovery were ‘pessimistic’ and she may have difficulty conceiving a baby in the future.

Judge Babington said there was little doubt the consequences were ‘life changing and probably permanent for her’.

He said that, on the night of the incident, the victim had been ‘vulnerable’ and ‘more or less unconscious through a mixture of drink, prescription drugs and cannabis. She was in no position to offer any resistance at all.’

The judge imposed a determinate sentence of 11 years - half of which will be spent in custody and half on licence.