A MOTHER has told of her hell after the stalker who made her life a misery was caged for five years.
Twisted James Steele, 52, of Reavilleen, Rosscarbery, Co Cork, was stopped by gardai outside Una Ring’s home at 3am carrying a rape kit, Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard today.
Steele wrote two letters to Ms Ring asking her for sex – but warned if it wasn’t consensual he would break into her home and rape her and her daughter.
Unhappy with the response from his former work colleague, Steele arrived at her home in the early hours of July 24 last with a crowbar, duct tape and rope.
An 11-inch condom covered prosthetic dildo was attached to his body.
Fortunately for the mum-of-two adult children, Gardai had set up a surveillance of her house and Steele was caught in the act.
The 49-year-old professional woman worked with the stalker but was not friends with him.
Sgt John Sharkey told the court Steele became obsessed with her after she rejected his advances when he moved to a new job.
After the rejection in February 2020, Australian native Steele, who moved to Ireland with his Irish wife in 2004, started sending texts to Ms Ring.
He made her life a living hell, leaving her in fear for the safety of her children and other family members over a five month period.
On two occasions she found letters in black envelopes on her car windscreen, the first on July 14.
This contained a typed letter with sexual innuendo. It also contained two condoms.
The letter said: “I hope you are feeling horny. It is time we meet and have some fun.
“I have left some condoms for you to put in your wallet.
“I will get some more as we will need them. Leave your backdoor unlocked so I can quietly call upstairs to you.
“I hope you have shaven downstairs as I like it nice and smooth. I am looking forward to our moment. I am watching you.”
On July 23, she found another envelope on her windscreen.
Steele wrote in an even more threatening manner.
It read: “Very disappointing effort by you. We are going to have sex and I have listed two options.
“1. You will leave your back door open and we have sex with consent. 2. Rape.
“I will break in and rape you and your daughter. There is no need contacting the Gardai as this will happen.
“Also make sure you are shaven down stairs as I will shave you. Yours best option is 1. See you soon”.
Ms Ring felt physically sick and very frightened after reading the letter. Gardai set up a surveillance operation at her home.
She had installed CCTV and when she checked the footage she identified James Steele as the person who had dropped off the letter.
Sgt Sharkey said Gardai mounted a surveillance operation at Ms Ring’s home in a Youghal housing estate because of the seriousness of the stalking incidents.
He said on July 27 at 3.45am Gardai saw a male who was disguised wearing a hat, blue disposable plastic gloves and a snood approaching the driveway.
He was arrested. Gardai found a 2ft crowbar on him as well as an orange rope and a roll of duct tape, admitting he planned to use the tape on Ms Ring’s mouth and to tie up her hands.
After being brought to Midleton Garda Station, Steele was found to have an 11 inch Prosthetic dildo strapped to his body. The dildo was covered with a condom.
A search of his van which he had driven from his home in Rosscarbery to Youghal yielded a lock picking set as well as more rope.
In his West Cork home where he lived with his wife and children Gardai found envelopes which matched those sent to Ms Ring as well as orange rope and spray paint cans.
Steele was interviewed on four occasions. He admitted that he written the letters.
He said the tone of the letters was “sick” and “disgusting” and told Gardai that his actions would have left Ms Ring “mortified, scared and frightened.”
Gardai also uncovered an internet search for chloroform by Steele.
Steele accepted responsibility for all of the harassment, which also included painting the wheels of her car pink, and putting graffiti on her fronts windows and ledge.
He pleaded guilty to a number of charges before the Circuit Criminal Court including two counts of criminal damage, a count of harassment, possession of articles with intent to commit a robbery and a count of intended robbery with an intent to commit rape.
Sgt Sharkey said he had a previous conviction in Australia for the indecent assault of a young woman he met in a nightclub but none in Ireland.
Defending senior counsel Tom Creed said Steele was a happily married man with two teenage children and this had a devastating effect on his own family.
Una told the court of the traumatic impact Steele’s behaviour had on her and her family.
SUFFERS FROM PTSD
She suffers from PTSD and has seen her life and the life of her teenage children turned upside down by the incident. She said that being stalked is the most psychologically terrifying situation to be in.
She said: “I was so certain that James Steele was going to break in and attack me that I used to tidy up the house each night before going to bed so that the house would be presentable for the crime scene photos.
“I even considered getting a tattoo with my name, town name and date of birth so that if he abducted and killed me that my body would be easily and quickly identified, that’s how utterly terrified I was. I still am.
“James Steele has destroyed my life in the last year. I have been diagnosed with PTSD, have ongoing nightmares and have suffered from depression and anxiety. I am on four different types of medication just to get me through the day.
“I hate being alone. I even check the car to ensure that no one has broken in and is lying in the back waiting for me.
“When I close my eyes I can see James Steele walking towards my front door with a crowbar ready to attack. I dread to think what would have happened if it wasn’t for the operation that gardai had put in place.”
She said she can only work part-time now and prior to this she had been promoted to manager in her workplace, so she was at considerable financial loss too.
Judge Sean O’Donnabain said “This is a very worrying case.”
He noted the level of preparedness by Steele and his “deviousness” before jailing him for seven years with the last two years suspended.
Steele will be supervised by the Probation Service for five years after his release. He was also prohibited from having any contact with Ms Ring or her family for an indefinite period.
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Speaking after the sentencing Ms Ring thanked Gardai for their support in the “harrowing” situation she found herself in.
She urged other people facing harassment to contact their local Gardai station.
She said that there should be “zero tolerance” for such crimes.
She added that her thoughts were with the family of Mr Steele at this difficult time.