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Irishman pleads guilty to causing $500,000 flood damage to hotel

Date

Mark Russell

Padraig Gaffney

Padraig Gaffney Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones

EXCLUSIVE

Drunk Irishman Padraig Gaffney woke up in a daze before staggering outside his Melbourne hotel room and down the emergency exit stairs to the eighth floor where he turned on a fire hydrant valve and flooded the building causing more than $500,000 damage, a court has heard.

Guests had to be evacuated and the fire brigade called as a soaking wet Gaffney returned to his room.

Wet, wet, wet... Fraser Place.

Wet, wet, wet... Fraser Place. Photo: Penny Stephens

When police later knocked on his door, his hair was still dripping wet, but he had no memory of what he had done.

Gaffney had travelled to Melbourne from Queensland for the weekend to celebrate his 28th birthday and to ask his girlfriend to marry him before his arrest. The couple has since split up.

Gaffney, 29, pleaded guilty in the County Court on Tuesday to one charge of criminal damage and was fined $10,000.

Chief Judge Michael Rozenes said despite the catastrophic consequences of his actions, it was hard to see where the evil lay in Gaffney’s conduct.

Judge Rozenes said Gaffney had been heavily intoxicated, but there was no malicious intent to cause damage to the hotel, and it was just a stupid act that he would never have contemplated had he been sober.

Gaffney told Fairfax Media he felt so ashamed at having forced people out of their rooms to be moved to other hotels in the middle of the night.

"This entire thing has ruined my life completely," Gaffney said. "I’ve spent 10 years in Australia trying to better myself and in the space of one night everything can be taken away from you.

"People who go out for the night and drink too much can ruin themselves completely." 

Prosecutor Kristie Churchill told the court Gaffney had been staying with his girlfriend at the Fraser Place Hotel serviced apartments in Exploration Lane on Sunday, April 21 last year, when they returned to their apartment 901 about 10pm after a night out.

A drunk Gaffney woke up just after midnight and walked out into the hallway and urinated.

Wearing just a pair of underpants, Gaffney took the emergency exit stairs down to the eighth floor and turned on the fire hydrant valve, causing a large amount of water to start gushing out. Every floor below the eighth floor was soon flooded and guests had to be evacuated. 

Wet and naked, Gaffney then walked up to the 10th floor and woke up a guest in apartment 1001 who gave him a pair of underpants to put on. Gaffney then banged on a number of doors on the 10th floor before returning to his room.

The fire brigade was notified at 12.28am and managed to shut off the fire hydrant valve.

Gaffney later told police he was "so, so sorry".

"This is not like me at all," Gaffney said. "I don’t know what the hell happened."

Asked why he had flooded the hotel, Gaffney replied: "Why would anyone have a reason for that? I’d just like to say I’m very, very sorry. I can’t remember a goddamn thing."

Defence lawyer Sam Norton said Gaffney had since broken up with his girlfriend who he had planned to ask to marry him during the "ill-fated trip" to Melbourne.

Mr Norton said Gaffney - who is being sued by Fraser Place Hotel over the flooding - had never intended to cause any damage to the building.

Born in County Roscommon in Ireland and the youngest of six children, Gaffney grew up in a strict Catholic family before completing a carpentry apprenticeship and moving to Queensland where he works for the construction company McNab.

Gaffney was deeply ashamed and embarrassed over the fallout from what he had done, given it had blackened his own reputation and tarnished his family’s name.

He had been living a normal, ordinary life before this "extraordinary turn of events", Mr Norton said.

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