A Bohemians fan who left an elderly woman crippled for life and needing 24-hour nursing care walked free after he was given a suspended sentence at a Salzburg court yesterday.
Paul Kelly (23) sparked an international manhunt after he and two pals knocked the 83-year-old woman to the ground while running from a group of Austrian locals who tried to stop the men stealing a bike on July 14 last year.
He had been charged with assault and attempted theft.
The court heard that Irishman Kelly had left a pub on the city's Theatergasse road with a group of friends and attempted to steal a bicycle.
A fight broke out when locals tried to stop them -- and the Irishmen ran off -- bashing the 83-year-old to the ground and not stopping to help or see if she was OK.
The court heard that the woman, from Priem am Chiemsee in Bavaria, Germany, had been visiting friends in Salzburg and had been left in intensive care in an artificial coma.
Austrian police had sealed off the city and questioned hundreds of Irish football fans that had been in the area for the Champions League qualifier game between Dublin Bohemians and Red Bull Salzburg. At the time the police did not expect the woman to survive, and the case was expected to be a murder inquiry.
Kelly and his friends had already left the city as the police search started, however.
But detectives managed to get on his trail again in April this year after forensic experts extracted a sample of DNA from the bike that identified Kelly.
The international manhunt ended when police discovered he had travelled to the holiday island of Ibiza and the shocked Irishman was arrested as he was leaving the country, and extradited to Austria.
The court heard that the injured woman had been on life support for a week after suffering severe head injuries -- and still needs 24-hour nursing care.
Her son Wolfgang Linseis (51) told the court his sister had given up work to care for her mother and that the medical costs had so far exceeded 300,000 euro -- and were rising all the time with the round the clock care she required.
Public prosecutor Barbara Feichtinger said: "This was a good example of police co-operation between Austrian, Irish and Spanish police. It shows that no one who breaks the law should feel safe."
However, the court decided Kelly should get a suspended sentence.
He was scheduled to fly back home to Ireland yesterday, and it was not clear if prosecutors would appeal the sentence.