DNA match lands rapist 14 years

ALAN Terry O'Brien might never have been punished for his horrific sex attack on an elderly Ipswich woman had he not given a DNA sample for an unrelated crime.

Yesterday O'Brien, 41, stood silently in Ipswich District Court as he was sentenced to 14 years' jail for his "abhorrent" actions in the early hours of August 6, 1999.

Then aged 33, he broke into a 76-year-old woman's West Ipswich home armed with a knife, raped her repeatedly then stole her money for Meals on Wheels.

The victim died before O'Brien was charged in 2005, after a DNA sample he gave when charged with common assault matched that found on her nightdress.

He denied having any memory of the attack, the court was told.

A pre-sentence report indicated O'Brien had been drinking about eight casks of wine a day at the time.

Judge Deborah Richards said it was a prolonged and persistent attack on a frail, old woman who lived alone, leaving her with considerable injuries.

"It involves significant personal violence and humiliation," Judge Richards said.

The court was told O'Brien grabbed the woman around the neck, to the point she could not breathe, and punched her in the eye when she tried to resist.

He anally raped her about five times, forced her to give him oral sex and tore her nightdress to pieces.

So frightened she wet the bed, she co-operated because she did not want to be choked, the court was told.

The court was told after O'Brien went to the toilet and had a cigarette, he tried to sodomise her again, despite her pleading: "Please, no more, I'll have a heart attack".

Before leaving, he took her money she had set aside for Meals on Wheels, along with another $135, telling her he would come back if she called police.

Crown prosecutor Reuben Carlos said it was an "abhorrent" attack and such violent, disgusting behaviour should be punished harshly.

Mr Carlos said O'Brien could have faced life imprisonment if the case went to trial.

O'Brien, from Yarrabah outside Cairns, pleaded guilty to rape, burglary and stealing.

He had a significant history for both burglary and violence offences.

As O'Brien had previously denied the charges, the case was adjourned for the defence to get independent testing of the DNA evidence.

O'Brien's barrister Mark Johnson said his client had consistently denied having any recollection of the offence and his guilty plea was based on the strength of the scientific evidence against him.

Mr Johnson said his client had either obliterated it from his memory or been severely affected by alcohol, which was possible given his significant alcohol abuse at the time.

He said O'Brien had described his childhood as a struggle and had lived on the streets when he was not in prison.

In sentencing O'Brien to 14 years' jail, Judge Richards took into account his guilty plea and significant criminal history, noting he had no convictions for sex offences.

Wearing jeans and a blue and red polo shirt, O'Brien clasped his hands behind his back and remained quiet in the dock.

The 553 days he spent in custody before sentencing was time already served.