A man attacked by a group of prisoners in Dublin’s Mountjoy Prison days after his latest sentence was imposed has died in hospital, where he had been on a ventilator since last Friday.
Gardaí are now expected to upgrade their investigation to a murder inquiry.
Separate inquiries are also under way by the Irish Prison Service and the Inspector of Prisons, which investigates every death in Irish jails.
Robert O’Connor (34), of Snowdrop Walk, north Dublin, was attacked by at least three other prisoners in the C-wing of Mountjoy just after 5.30pm on Friday. Gardaí suspect the attackers were effectively working at the behest of another criminal, who directed the violence from outside the jail.
Although prison staff quickly went to aid the victim, the men responsible had fled the landing, although a number of suspects have been identified and are at the center of the Garda’s investigation.
The area where the attack occurred, including O’Connor’s cell and the landing outside, was sealed off and examined by members of the Garda Technical Bureau.
O’Connor was treated at the scene by paramedics before being taken to the Mater hospital beside the prison and was placed on a ventilator. He sustained head injuries in the attack.
CCTV footage was being gathered from cameras in the jail in a bid to establish if the attackers were recorded entering and fleeing O’Connor’s cell. Gardaí are working on a definite line of inquiry and have already identified suspects.
A number of items, including clothing, have been seized as evidence from Mountjoy Prison, and gardaí are hopeful CCTV images, forensic testing of the items seized and investigation of the crime scene will help identify the attackers.
Confirming the man had died, the the Irish Prison Service said it wished to extend its “deepest sympathies to his family and friends at this time”.
“The incident continues to be investigated by the Irish Prison Service and the gardai. In addition all deaths in custody are subject to investigation by the Inspector of Prisons,” it added.
Just 48 hours before the attack, O’Connor was jailed for six-and-a-half years after he pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of the semi-automatic pistol in Finglas on October 13th, 2021. He had already been serving an award in Mountjoy for several months for another offense before his court appearance last week.
O’Connor claimed in court he agreed to carry a loaded semi-automatic pistol to pay off a drugs debt. On the day the gun was found, O’Connor was traveling in a car with another man on the N2, and as they drove towards Finglas they were spotted and followed by an off-duty garda.
The men the car and ran towards Charlestown shopping centre. Garda reinforcements began to arrive and chased them on foot.
Both men were arrested, and O’Connor was caught with the loaded gun in a plastic bag. The gun had three rounds of ammunition in the magazine and one round in the breach. The O’Connor bag was also carrying two jackets, two pairs of gloves and two face masks.
Although O’Connor initially said he had the gun because he was in fear of his life, he later claimed he was carrying it to pay off a debt.
Judge Martin Nolan said O’Connor must have known the reason he was carrying the gun was “to bring it to third parties to shoot someone or injure someone” and as such he was highly culpable.
O’Connor’s previous convictions included drugs offences, stealing cars, criminal damage, theft and road traffic offences.
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