Former Irish soldier Peter Walters, who shot his wife as she prayed in bed, has been sentenced to four years in prison

Peter Walters had drunk six bottles of whiskey before storming into the bedroom of the family home

Peter Walters had downed six bottles of whiskey before storming into the bedroom of the family home in Raphoe, Co Donegal.

The 57-year-old, who suffers from untreated post-traumatic stress disorder after killing a man in Lebanon, admitted committing the horrific incident when he appeared at Letterkenny District Court.

Walters, a military enthusiast, took one of his replica weapons from a gun safe he kept in his Beechwood Avenue home and opened fire with blank cartridges on May 17, 2021.

Judge John Aylmer said an aggravating aspect of the case was that the victim was the defendant’s wife and the offense amounted to a “gross breach of trust”.

Walters was charged with presenting, in the course of an argument, an item capable of causing serious injury, namely a decommissioned firearm capable of firing blank bullets, in a manner likely to unlawfully intimidate another.

The court was told Walters spent seven years in the Irish Defense Forces from 1981 to 1987, killed a man in combat and was discharged for mental health reasons.

He suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder due to this incident in Lebanon in 1983 and had never received treatment for the disorder.

He was also an alcoholic, having experienced what was described in court as a drinking culture back in the army.

However, he remained interested in all military items and had a collection in his home, including replicas of weapons used in war re-enactments.

On the morning of May 17, 2021, Walters had been drinking alcohol and had consumed at least six bottles of whiskey in the previous 24 hours, the court was told.

His wife, Mrs Theresa Walters, had been returning home after visiting their sick daughter in Drogheda and was involved in an accident on the way home near Aughnacloy, Co. Tyrone and had to be taken to Cavan Hospital for medical treatment.

When she arrived home, Ms. Walters showered, changed into her pajamas and got into bed. When her husband went to bed he was described as “angry and drunk.” At 4 a.m. he woke up and filled a fresh glass of vodka.

The next morning, Mrs. Walters had taken out her rosary and was praying when Walters came into the bedroom. Ms Walters described a “big loud bang” that was “deafening” and the rosary flew from her hands.

“She thought he was going to kill her,” said Detective Garda John O’Sullivan. Ms. Walters told investigators: “I thought he wanted me dead.”

The frightened woman did not notice that her husband was firing empty bullets and shouted at her to leave the house. He told her: “You are not my wife. Get the hell out of this house.”

Detective Garda O’Sullivan told the court: “She could see him pulling the trigger. There were flashes of light and loud bangs and she could see rubber things flying toward her arms. Her ears were ringing and she could smell gun smoke. She didn’t know what he was capable of.”

Ms. Walters recalled how “his eyes were cold, like those of a cold-blooded murderer, and he was fixated on what he was doing.”

The court was told Walters was a former soldier and had a keen interest in weapons. The couple had visited Normandy for a re-enactment of the D-Day landings and Walters purchased the firearm.

Gardai rushed to the scene of the accident on Beechwood Avenue at around 10.20am. Detective Garda O’Sullivan and two other armed detectives initially responded.

Officers noticed movement in an upstairs bedroom and Detective Garda O’Sullivan recalled seeing Walters wearing a blue dressing gown. Walters pointed at gardai and raised his hands as if to ask what was going on, he said. Walters came to the front door and had a black M1911 pistol in his hand.

The gun was cocked, with the barrel pointed skyward. Detective Garda O’Sullivan shouted three times at Walters to drop the gun before Walters pulled the magazine from the pistol.

Detective Garda O’Sullivan had his firearm drawn and instead of dropping the weapon, Walters removed the magazine and threw it back into the house.

“I was very afraid that he was trying to confuse me and make me believe his gun was empty,” said Detective Garda O’Sullivan.

Walters was given two further commands before gardai intervened and arrested him. Detective Garda O’Sullivan said Walters’ face was “bloated, red and he appeared drunk”.

During a subsequent search of the house, gardai found a cache of weapons including a Thompson submachine gun and a semi-automatic pistol, as well as “other military items”. Three rounds of blank cartridges were located on a desk in a room labeled “Peter’s Computer Room” while officers noted bloodstains.

Gardai found an Uzi submachine gun and other blank cartridges in a locked glass case covered by a curtain.

All items found were confirmed to be legally owned by Walters.

Prosecutor Fiona Crawford said Walters was “obsessed with military history”.

A ballistics test confirmed that the pistol Walters was holding when Gardai arrived was “incapable of firing live ammunition”. Another 9 mm caliber pistol found by officers was also “incapable of firing projectile ammunition.”

The court heard Walters served in the Irish Army between 1981 and 1987. During a mission in Lebanon in 1983, Walters killed someone to protect other Irish soldiers.

“He is extremely traumatized by this and continues to have flashbacks,” Mr Nolan said.

When Walters was arrested and taken to Letterkenny Garda station he was too drunk to be interviewed. In the last 24 hours, Walters drank six bottles of vodka and whiskey.

Until this incident, the court heard Walters had not drunk alcohol for 12 years.

“He told gardai that he had passed out and couldn’t remember anything,” Mr Nolan said.

Detective Garda O’Sullivan said he felt Walters was convinced gardai would “make a bigger deal” out of the incident

Walters has seven previous convictions, four of which were for traffic offences.

Detective Garda O’Sullivan said he was “extremely skeptical” whether Walters would be given a firearms license again or not.

In her succinct victim impact statement, Ms Waters said the entire neighborhood was upset about what happened and one young family had even moved out of the area.

She said she still has nightmares about the incident and remembers her husband standing over her like a soldier, pointing the gun at her face and pulling the trigger.

“The nightmares still haunt me today. I was afraid for my life until today. Now I can tell you that I will do my best to rebuild my life,” she said.

She added that she had been afraid but could now face him in court and told him that she would do her best to forgive him and that she hoped he could forgive himself.

Walters’ lawyer, Mr Peter Nolan, said his client had been sober for 12 years until this incident.

“He told gardai that he had passed out and couldn’t remember anything,” he said.

Citing the time Walters spent in the army, Mr Nolan said medical reports highlighted his client suffering from untreated post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from the killing of a man during a UN peacekeeping mission.

He recounted how, during a nighttime attack by a local militia in Lebanon, Walters saw a fighter ready to attack Irish soldiers with a machine gun and he shot the man.

“He was significantly traumatized by this,” Mr Nolan said.

He compared the post-traumatic stress disorder Walters suffered to the post-traumatic stress disorder American soldiers suffered after returning from Vietnam.

“Since that horrific situation in Lebanon when he shot another human being… From that day on, it was like a cancer was eating away at him. “He never received treatment for his post-traumatic stress disorder,” he said.

After Walters took the stand and apologized to his wife, Mr Nolan said there was no doubt their relationship was over.

Mr Nolan said his client did his best and attended White Oaks Rehab Center to combat his alcoholism, as well as volunteering at the Donegal Donkey Sanctuary in Raphoe.

He has not consumed alcohol for two years and a probation service report found he was at moderate risk of reoffending, but he said he was not suitable for community service.

Mr Nolan also stressed that although Walters admitted owning the replica weapons, they had all been licensed and used for re-enactment purposes only and have now all been removed and will be destroyed.

Asking the court for maximum leniency, the lawyer added: “I would ask the court to look at him as a man trying to come to terms with his demons. I am convinced he will never appear in court again.”

Referring to Section 40 of the Domestic Violence Act, Judge Aylmer said he placed the case in the middle category of offenses warranting a sentence of six years in mitigation, but as the victim was the defendant’s partner, he then deserved it a sentence of seven years.

The mitigating factors are that Walters cooperated with the investigation, made confessions and pleaded guilty early, while the judge also pointed to his high on six bottles of whiskey and the fact that he suffers from untreated post-traumatic stress disorder.

Walters had spent 28 days in rehab at Whiteoaks, undergoing talk therapy and had not consumed alcohol in the last two years since the incident.

The court also mentioned his work history and the fact that he now volunteers as a mechanic at the local Donegal Donkey Sanctuary.

For all of these reasons, Judge Aylmer reduced the sentence from seven years to one of five years in prison.

And to give him credit for the “very significant progress” he has made in rehab and to encourage further rehabilitation, Judge Aylmer suspended the final 12 months of that sentence, meaning Walters will spend four years in prison must serve.

He commended Walters for the time he spent in custody and also ordered him to abstain from alcohol for 12 months upon his release and to seek help from local mental health and addiction services.

The order was given to destroy all weapons and ammunition found in Walter’s house.


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