Gardaí investigating after threatening letter sent to home of convicted soldier Cathal Crotty

Cathal Crotty escaped being jailed over the violent attack on Limerick woman Natasha O’Brien.

GARDAÍ are investigating after a letter was posted to the family home of convicted Irish soldier Cathal Crotty warning him to leave his native County Clare or face the threat of being kidnapped and harmed.

Mr Crotty (22) received a fully suspended three-year sentence two weeks ago after he was convicted of an assault on Natasha O’Brien (24) in Limerick City on May 29, 2022.

Mr Crotty boasted about the attack to friends on social media afterwards, saying “two to put her down, two to put her out.”

The suspended sentence and comments from the sentencing judge Tom O’Donnell, as well as Ms O’Brien’s disgust at the nature of the sentence, sparked national outrage and street protests calling for legal reforms, more legal rights for victims of crime, and sensitivity training for judges.

Limerick Circuit Court heard Mr Crotty grabbed Ms O’Brien by her hair and delivered six upper cut punches into her face and head. He continued punching Ms O’Brien after she fell to the ground and was losing consciousness, the court heard.

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Ms O’Brien said she had asked Mr Crotty to stop shouting homophobic slurs at people when he grabbed and assaulted her.

Judge O’Donnell faced criticism for the manner in which he reasoned his decision not to impose an immediate jail sentence on Mr Crotty.

The judge had asked Ms O’Brien if she understood the significance of Crotty’s guilty plea, explaining that it had spared her having to be cross examined by Crotty’s lawyers if the case had gone to trial and had spared the court and Gardaí precious time and resources.

The judge also said he had “no doubt” Crotty’s career in the Defence Forces would be over had he jailed him.

Judge O’Donnell said he had to balance Crotty’s “cowardly” attack with mitigating factors including that Crotty pleaded guilty – albeit after he initially deflected blame on Ms O’Brien and changed his story only after Gardaí showed him CCTV footage of the attack – and that Crotty had no previous convictions.

Judge O’Donnell had also heard testimony from Crotty’s superior officer Commandant Paul Togher, Sarsfield Barracks, who said that in his opinion, Crotty’s conduct in the Defence Forces had always been “exemplary, professional and courteous”.

Ms O’Brien told the judge that she had lost her job because she could not cope with the trauma of the attack; she said she had since returned to employment and was trying to move on with her life but that she felt lucky to be alive given the level of violence Crotty had used against her.

Crotty is the subject of an internal Defence Forces disciplinary process which will determine his future in the army.

It has now emerged that Gardaí are investigating the circumstances of a threatening letter sent to Mr Crotty’s family residence last Wednesday (July 3).

The letter, seen by this reporter, addressed to Cathal Crotty’s father, began: “Mr Crotty, please understand this letter has nothing to do with you, so nothing will be done to you or your house. But if you do as we ask, all isn’t lost, however in not doing as we ask, it will be a very sad story indeed for your son, Cathal.”

“As you are aware, Mr Crotty, your son Cathal done a very very bad thing on that poor girl … So, since justice wasn’t done in court, me and my men from Dublin and our members from “Limerick” have been talking at our meetings (and) have therefore made a rule that Cathal Crotty from Co Clare near Limerick City will be taken from his home by any means in two weeks time, night or day, and will suffer for what he has done to that poor girl who, by the way, wouldn’t hurt a fly.

“Mr Crotty, justice wasn’t done in court, your son can’t get away with this crime.

“However, we will look at the case if your son (moves) out of the county for good in two weeks time. This talk with my members is his last hope, leave now or else, well, you know Mr Crotty what is coming.

“The law can’t help. Even now we have someone looking at your house – it is up to you.

“You might and try to hide him, your son, but we could have taken him last week for a little drive.”

The anonymous letter, which includes a Dublin postmark, repeats: “Get him out for good and we will leave him be.”

“Time is running out fast — two weeks or we are coming down Mr Crotty, night or day.”

A garda spokesman said that “An Garda Síochána is aware of correspondence received at a domestic residence in County Clare in July 2024.”

The Garda spokesman added that “enquiries are ongoing”.

The Director of Public Prosecutions has said it is to appeal Crotty’s sentence on the grounds that it was too lenient.

A date for the appeal has yet to be scheduled.