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Stalker used scaffold pole to access female student’s flat



A stalker used a scaffolding pole to climb onto the balcony of a young woman’s apartment, before walking in through an open door and assaulting her flatmate with a claw hammer as she slept on a couch.

Igor Lewandowski (20), formerly of Dunaras, Bishop O’Donnell Road, was a first year engineering student at NUIG when he became obsessed with another student and began to stalk her incessantly earlier this year.

Lewandowski, who secured 565 points in his Leaving Cert results, used his engineering skills to locate the best vantage point in the student accommodation complex where the young woman lived, from where he could simultaneously check her movements along either of two paths leading to and from her apartment.  The hidden vantage point also afforded him a clear view of the woman’s bedroom window and the front door leading to her apartment block.

Lewandowski pleaded guilty last month before Galway Circuit Criminal Court to harassing the female student at Dún na Coiribe, Headford Road, and also at various other locations around Galway City on dates between May 10 and May 27 last, contrary to Section 10 (1) and (6) of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997.

He also pleaded guilty to a charge of aggravated burglary by breaking into her apartment at Dún na Coiribe on March 27 last, while having a silver claw hammer with him which he used to assault another female, causing her harm, contrary to Section 13 (1) and (3) of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001.

The accused, who moved from Poland to Monasterevin in Kildare with his family ten years ago, has been held on remand since his arrest in connection with the offences last May and has recently been put on 23-hour lockdown in prison for his own protection.

Five bail applications which he made to both the District Court and High Court in the intervening period, were all refused.

He was due to be sentenced last week, but appeared in custody before the court ahead of that schedule when he lodged a sixth bail application.

Detective Bernard McLoughlin strenuously objected to the application, telling the court the accused was a flight risk and that both women lived in fear of him.

Outlining his objections to bail, Det McLoughlin said this was a very unusual case and that he could not emphasise enough the impact it was having on both women.

He said the harassment began in early May when the accused began to watch and beset the young woman he became infatuated with.

They had met through mutual friends in NUIG but as time went on the accused became infatuated and besotted with her. He discovered where she worked in a shop and during Garda interviews, he admitted following her to her place of work and watching her. He followed her when she took her lunch breaks and after work, followed her when she went to pubs and restaurants with her friends.

He would then follow her as she made her way home to the Dún na Coiribe student village.

Det McLoughlin said Lewandowski told him during interview that he had created a vantage point for himself from where he could watch two pathways simultaneously to monitor the woman’s movements as she came and went from her accommodation.

“He could also monitor the front door to the apartment block and had a viewing point to her bedroom as well,” Det McLoughlin said.

The young woman and her housemates became aware Lewandowski was following them, but they thought it would stop and he would go away in time.

However, on May 17 last, the doorbell rang at 9am and when the young woman looked out the upstairs window, she saw the accused hiding in bushes outside. She immediately rang the Gardaí.

On May 26, Lewandowski appeared to bump into the woman by chance on campus.  She became afraid and went straight home but shortly afterwards, she saw him outside the apartment again.

Det McLoughlin said that due to the seriousness of the offence, a warning was circulated to Lewandowski to see what his intentions were.  The following morning Gardaí received an emergency call from the woman that one of her housemates had been assaulted by the accused in the apartment.

Gardaí discovered the accused had entered the property by using a scaffolding pole to get onto the balcony and from there he went into the apartment through an unlocked door.

Her flatmate, who had locked herself out of her own bedroom the night before and had slept on the couch instead, woke up to find the accused repeatedly hitting her with a claw hammer. She managed to fend off the blows with her duvet. The accused fled and jumped off the balcony.

Gardai found a knife on the ground near where he had jumped.

Lewandowski was found a short time later “crawling across the Dyke Road”.

During subsequent Garda interviews, he claimed he only wanted to talk to the woman and get €200 which he had lent back from her.

“We aren’t sure what his true intentions were,” Det McLoughlin added.

He said the accused was of Polish heritage and while his immediate family lived in Monasterevin, he had extended family in Poland.

The detective said he believed that if the accused was given bail he would be a serious flight risk.

“I can’t emphasise enough the impact this case has had on the two victims.  The girl he was stalking is here, but the girl he attacked with the hammer is doing exams today and cannot be here,” Det McLoughin explained.

“This bail hearing has caused serious anxiety for both of them, especially the girl doing her exams today.

“He’s a very intelligent man and if he’s granted bail, both women will be homeless this Christmas because they will have to leave their accommodation.

“They’ve told me that after he finishes whatever sentence he gets, they will have to leave Galway City because they will not feel safe once he’s free.

“Both of them are receiving counselling at the moment and this has had a very serious effect on their lives.”

Mr Patrick O’Sullivan BL, defending, said he was very conscious this was a bail hearing and he didn’t want to stray into evidence that would be given at the sentence hearing.

He noted the detective thought his client was intelligent, before suggesting the extent to which his client had co-operated during Garda interview, would not suggest he was intelligent.

“Are you suggesting that honestly shows a lack of intelligence?,” Judge Rory McCabe asked counsel.

Mr O’Sullivan replied he was merely saying his client had given more information to Det McLoughlin than what the Garda had been looking for.

Mr O’Sullivan said his client denied he had the knife found outside the apartment and it was quite possible the knife had been there already.

Det McLoughlin said he found that hard to believe but it was possible.

Mr O’Sullivan said his client’s father was prepared to enter into a bond and was in a position to lodge €18,000 in court to secure his son’s bail.

Det McLoughlin said nothing would allay his fears of the impact it would have on the victims if the accused was given bail. And he said he felt the injured parties would still be at risk from the accused.

“During interview, I could see no remorse from him.  He couldn’t see what he did was wrong, including assaulting a female with a hammer,” he added.

Mr O’Sullivan said his client was prepared to stay out of Galway until his sentence hearing and if given a suspended sentence he would move to Dublin and attend college there next September.

Judge Rory McCabe said the accused had pleaded guilty to very serious offences which had a serious impact on the victims.

He said Lewandowski’s status had changed once he pleaded guilty last month and he could see no grounds for granting him bail this week knowing that sentence would be taking place next week.

He refused the bail application and remanded the accused in continuing custody to next week, December 18, for sentence.

Mr O’Sullivan asked for that date to be vacated as he needed time to secure a probation report and a psychological report on his client prior to sentence taking place.

The judge agreed and remanded Lewandowski in continuing custody to February 21 for sentence.


Galway ‘masterplan’ needed to tackle housing and transport crises



From the Galway City Tribune – An impassioned plea for a ‘masterplan’ that would guide Galway City into the future has been made in the Dáil. Galway West TD Catherine Connolly stated this week that there needed to be an all-inclusive approach with “vision and leadership” in order to build a sustainable city.

Deputy Connolly spoke at length at the crisis surrounding traffic and housing in Galway city and said that not all of the blame could be laid at the door of the local authority.

She said that her preference would be the provision of light rail as the main form of public transport, but that this would have to be driven by the government.

“I sat on the local council for 17 years and despaired at all of the solutions going down one road, metaphorically and literally. In 2005 we put Park & Ride into the development plan, but that has not been rolled out. A 2016 transport strategy was outdated at the time and still has not been updated.

“Due to the housing crisis in the city, a task force was set up in 2019. Not a single report or analysis has been published on the cause of the crisis,” added Deputy Connolly.

She then referred to a report from the Land Development Agency (LDA) that identified lands suitable for the provision of housing. But she said that two-thirds of these had significant problems and a large portion was in Merlin Park University Hospital which, she said, would never have housing built on it.

In response, Minister Simon Harris spoke of the continuing job investment in the city and also in higher education, which is his portfolio.

But turning his attention to traffic congestion, he accepted that there were “real issues” when it came to transport, mobility and accessibility around Galway.

“We share the view that we need a Park & Ride facility and I understand there are also Bus Connects plans.

“I also suggest that the City Council reflect on her comments. I am proud to be in a Government that is providing unparalleled levels of investment to local authorities and unparalleled opportunities for local authorities to draw down,” he said.

Then Minister Harris referred to the controversial Galway City Outer Ring Road which he said was “struck down by An Bord Pleanála”, despite a lot of energy having been put into that project.

However, Deputy Connolly picked up on this and pointed out that An Bord Pleanála did not say ‘No’ to the ring road.

“The High Court said ‘No’ to the ring road because An Bord Pleanála acknowledged it failed utterly to consider climate change and our climate change obligations.

“That tells us something about An Bord Pleanála and the management that submitted such a plan.”

In the end, Minister Harris agreed that there needed to be a masterplan for Galway City.

“I suggest it is for the local authority to come up with a vision and then work with the Government to try to fund and implement that.”

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Official opening of Galway’s new pedestrian and cycle bridge



The new Salmon Weir pedestrian and cycle bridge will be officially opened to the public next Friday, May 26.

Work on the €10 million bridge got underway in April 2022, before the main structure was hoisted into place in early December.

A lunchtime tape-cutting ceremony will take place on Friday, as the first pedestrians and cyclists traverse the as-yet-unnamed bridge.

The Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, previously said the bridge, once opened, would remove existing conflicts between pedestrians, cyclists and traffic “as well as facilitating the Cross-City Link public transport corridor over the existing 200-year-old bridge”.

The naming of the new bridge has been under discussion by the Council’s Civic Commemorations Committee since late last year.

One name that has been in the mix for some time is that of the first woman in Europe to graduate with an engineering degree – Alice Perry.

Ms Perry, who was from Wellpark, graduated from Queen’s College Galway (now University of Galway) in 1906. The university’s engineering building is named in her honour.

The bridge was built by Jons Civil Engineering firm in County Meath and was assembled off-site before being transported to Galway. Funding for the project was provided in full by the National Transport Authority and the European Regional Development Fund.

(Photo: Sheila Gallagher captured the city’s new pedestrian footbridge being raised on the south side of the Salmon Weir Bridge in December. It will officially open next Friday, May 26).

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Minister branded ‘a disgrace’ for reversing land rezoning in Galway City



From the Galway City Tribune – Minister of State for Local Government and Planning, Kieran O’Donnell was labelled a “disgrace” for overturning councillors’ decisions to rezone land in the new City Development Plan.

Minister O’Donnell (pictured) confirmed in a letter to Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath last week that he was reversing 25 material alternations made by councillors to the CDP 2023-29. He made the decision on the advice of Office of Planning Regulator (OPR).

Minister O’Donnell directed that 14 land parcels that were subject to land-use zoning changes by councillors as part of the Material Alterations to the Draft CDP should be reversed.

He directed that a further 11 land parcels in the city should become “unzoned”.

The Minister found that the CDP had not been made in a manner consistent with recommendations of the OPR, which required specific changes to the plan to ensure consistency with the national planning laws and guidelines.

At last week’s Council meeting Cllr Eddie Hoare (FG) asked for clarity on the process by which councillors could rezone the lands that had been changed by the Minister’s direction.

Cllr Declan McDonnell said, “What he [Minister O’Donnell] has done is an absolute disgrace”.

And he asked: “Do we have to have another development plan meeting to deal with it?”

Both Cllrs Hoare and McDonnell wondered what would become of the lands that were rezoned or unzoned by the ministerial direction.

Mr McGrath said the Council had put forward an argument in favour of retaining the material alterations in the plan, but ultimately the Minister sided with OPR.

He said if councillors want to make alterations to the new plan, they could go through the process of making a material alteration but this was lengthy.

The Save Roscam Peninsula campaign welcomed the Minister’s decision.

In a statement to the Galway City Tribune, it said the direction would mean the Roscam village area on the Roscam Peninsula will be unzoned and a number of land parcels would revert back to agriculture/high amenity.

A spokesperson for the campaign said: “the material alterations made by city councillors following lobbying by developers continued the long-standing practice of councillors facilitating a developer-led plan rather than an evidence- and policy-based plan that meets the needs of the city.

“The Minister’s direction is an important step in restoring confidence in the planning system. It is clear from the City Council’s own evidence on future housing projections that there was no requirement to zone these lands for residential purposes in order to meet the needs of the targeted population increase up to 2029,” the spokesperson added.

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