Mountjoy prisoner was lured to another cell before fatal attack, gardaí believe

Robert O’Connor (34), from Darndale in Dublin, died in Mater hospital five days after sustaining head injuries in group attack in Mountjoy C-Division

Gardaí believe a prisoner who died after a gang assault in Mountjoy Prison was lured to the cell of another prisoner for the purposes of being attacked, though the incident went wrong and resulted in his death. The killing of Dubliner Robert O’Connor (34) is the first in the Irish prison system for seven years and the first in Mountjoy for 16 years.

The last prisoner murdered in Mountjoy Prison, 20-year-old Gary Douch, from Coolock in Dublin, and Mr O’Connor were members of the same extended family.

Four men suspected of involvement in the attack on Mr O’Connor last Friday evening were still prisoners in Mountjoy last night and were being held in different areas of the jail. Gardaí were expected to gather more evidence in the case before arresting them for questioning.

The dead man was a drug user, was serving a sentence for a serious firearms offence and had also been involved in a dispute with other prisoners in Mountjoy earlier this year. Garda sources said all of those areas of his background were being examined in a bid to establish a motive for the attack. They had also not ruled out a link to a dispute in the deceased man’s personal life.

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Mr O’Connor, from Snowdrop Walk, Darndale, was attacked on the C-Division of Mountjoy at about 5.40pm last Friday. Garda and prison services sources said it appeared he went with another prisoner to a cell and was attacked there by four men. The attack was very brief, lasting just seconds, but the victim sustained serious head injuries.

Prison officers rushed into the scene and paramedics treated Mr O’Connor in the jail before he was taken to the Mater hospital, beside the prison on the North Circular Road. The injured man was placed on a ventilator in the hospital and there were grave concerns for his survival prospects.

The Irish Prison Service confirmed yesterday morning Mr O’Connor had been pronounced dead at the hospital on Tuesday night.

Mr O’Connor had been in prison several times and was committed again last October, on remand in Cloverhill Prison, Dublin, after being charged with a firearms offence. When in February he was sentenced to six months for an unrelated crime he was transferred to Mountjoy Prison to serve that sentence. Last Wednesday he was sentenced to 6½ years for the firearms offence and was fatally attacked 48 hours later.

Mr O’Connor’s death is the first in Mountjoy Prison for 16 years. Figures obtained by The Irish Times show that the Office of the Inspector of Prisons has investigated 67 deaths since 2018 and published 50 death in custody reports in the same time period.

The office is tasked with investigating all deaths of people in the custody of the Irish Prison Service — regardless of the cause — including deaths occurring within 28 days of temporary release.

Completed reports are initially submitted to the director-general of the Irish Prison Service, who prepares an action plan responding to any recommendations made by the inspector of prisons.

The reports are then submitted to the Minister for Justice for publication.

There have been 15 deaths in 2022.

The most number of deaths in recent years — 21 — occurred in 2021 and included one reported death of a prisoner after their release.

The Office of the Inspector of Prisons said three reports were currently with Minister for Justice Helen McEntee awaiting publication.

Three cases of deaths are under investigation by An Garda Síochána.

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