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Pictured: Limerick thug who beat, kicked, scalded and threw ammonia in woman’s face
Christopher Stokes (39) placed cardboard boxes around the semi-conscious woman before starting fire to the apartment
Yesterday at 16:30
A man beat and kicked a female friend, poured boiling water on her and splashed her face with ammonia, leaving her fearing she would go blind, a court heard. .
Christopher Stokes (39) put a plastic bin liner over the head of Simone Lee and told her he was going to bury her body on a farm on the Cork-Limerick border, the Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork heard.
Stokes then placed cardboard boxes around the semi-conscious woman on a couch in her home before starting a fire in the apartment.
Neighbours alerted by the smoke raised the alarm with gardaí and Limerick Fire Brigade.
The revelation came as Mr Justice Michael McGrath told Ms Lee (43), after she had fought back tears to deliver a victim impact statement, that she was “a very courageous woman.”
Burn specialists and plastic surgeons found she had suffered burns to 10pc of her body.
Ms Lee told the court she was “a strong woman…I am a survivor and I am not a victim. For all the fear this man caused me, I am proud I am here today to tell my story.”
But she admitted her ordeal left her physically and mentally scarred.
“I was left blind for three days – I was terrified I would be blind,” she said.
“My family thought that I was dead. I was unrecognisable – even now I cannot wear certain clothes as I am conscious of my scars.
“As a result of this assault I have been left with lifelong scars both mental and physical. I have scars on my body which I still feel pain in.
“I was two months and four days in the burns unit in Cork.”
Ms Lee said that, when she now looks at photos of herself after the assault, she cannot believe how bad she looked.
“As a result of the arson, I lost a home which I had lived in happily for four years. I lost all my possessions. When I got out of the hospital I was living out of a black bag. I miss my flat,” she said, also saying she felt terrified during the assault.
“I trust no one now. This is the second time in my life I have been violently assaulted. Christopher Stokes told me he would finish the job after my first assault.
“Life is now a daily battle.”
Stokes of Sarsfield Avenue, Garryowen, Limerick, had initially pleaded not guilty on Monday to a charge of the attempted murder of Ms Lee on May 11, 2021.
The jury of seven women and four men was discharged by Mr Justice McGrath on Tuesday after Stokes was arraigned on three alternative charges. Stokes then admitted assault causing serious harm to Simone Lee, damaging a property by fire, and threatening to kill another individual, Timothy Fehin.
Detective Garda Aled Harkin told the court how Ms Lee had been living in a Limerick city property operated by the Fr Peter McVerry Trust.
Ms Lee was friendly with an elderly farmer, Timothy Fehin, and knew Christopher Stokes, a separated father of three.
Stokes regularly visited Ms Lee at her home in 2021. On May 9, Stokes stayed overnight at the property.
The following day, he was increasingly anxious and agitated over personal matters including payments for his former partner and young children.
As the day progressed, Stokes became increasingly anxious and demanded that Mr Fehin come to the property and drive him and Ms Lee to a supermarket in Charleville, Co Cork.
Stokes repeatedly struck Ms Lee over the course of the day – at one point hitting her with a glass bottle as they drove to Charleville in Mr Fehin’s car, leaving her bleeding from a head wound.
Mr Fehin (71) was terrified. Stokes, according to Det Garda Harkin, at one point warned: “I am going to kill the two of you. I am going to cut her up and bury her on the (farm) land.”
After returning to Ms Lee’s apartment on the evening of May 10, Stokes used a fridge to block the door and prevent his two terrified victims from fleeing.
He then subjected Ms Lee to a prolonged assault into the early hours of May 11. Ms Lee was punched, knocked to the ground and then kicked.
Stokes warned Ms Lee – who had been subjected to an assault by a different individual years previously – that he “was going to finish the job that the other eejit didn’t”.
“He put a plastic bin liner over her head…and Ms Lee lost consciousness,” Det Garda Harkin told Sean Gillane SC, for the State.
Stokes then boiled a kettle and poured the boiling water down Ms Lee’s back. He then got ammonia acid and splashed it three times in her face.
Ms Lee later told gardaí that the pain was “excruciating”. After losing her sight for three days, she feared she would be left blind by the attack.
Mr Fehin managed to move the fridge, flee the apartment and go to gardaí.
The farmer said he has been left “haunted” by the attack and his inability to help Ms Lee on the night.
“I was never so frightened in all my life. He told me he was going to kill me and bury me on my own land. It still terrifies me,” Mr Fehin said.
Stokes then started a fire in the apartment – and neighbours were alerted by the smoke and then raised the alarm.
One neighbour met Ms Lee – who was also awoken by the smell of smoke in her flat – and was shocked by her appearance in the complex hallway.
When Ms Lee awoke to the smell of the smoke, she was lying on a sofa covered in cardboard boxes and debris. “Her head was like a football,” Det Garda Harkin said.
Gardaí attended and arrested Stokes, who was still at the property.
In interview, Stokes denied assaulting Ms Lee.
Brian McInerney SC, defending, said his client was initially unable to be interviewed by gardaí after his arrest because of his level of intoxication.
He said Stokes was a father of three young children and was left very upset by the breakdown of his relationship with his partner.
On Stokes’s behalf, Mr McInerney he issued a full and unreserved apology to the two victims for what happened in May 2021.
Mr McInerney said his client’s plea to three charges including assault causing serious harm was of assistance to both the State and the victims.
While Stokes has 13 previous convictions, none were for violent offences and mostly involved traffic and drug issues.
Judge McGrath adjourned sentencing until Thursday.