Northern Ireland

Newry child rape victim appeals for help over 1994 attack

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Media captionRape victim speaks out in hope of catching attacker

A woman who was raped by a stranger when she was eight years old has appealed for help to track down the man 20 years on from the attack.

She was subjected to a "prolonged and violent sexual attack" by a man in Newry, County Down, on 10 June 1994.

Police are treating the attack near Barcroft community centre as attempted murder.

She has urged anyone who did not speak to police at the time to do so now.

The woman, who did not want to be identified, spoke anonymously to the BBC about her memories of the attack, which left her traumatised.

Image copyright PSNI
Image caption An artist's impression of the attack suspect as he appeared in 1994

She said she was making her way to play football at the community centre with a seven-year-old boy when they were approached by the man who asked them to help him find his younger brother.

The rapist was aged in his late teens or early 20s at the time of the attack.

The children went with the man into woodland behind the community centre, where he convinced them to take different routes through the trees.

The children became separated and the victim said that when the boy left the area, the man attacked and sexually abused her.

She said he had come prepared for the attack.

"He knew where he was going, so that does make me think it was a local person, or he hung about that area at the time," the victim said.

The rapist became more violent when the boy, who by that stage had become lost in the woods, began to shout the girl's name.

Image copyright PSNI
Image caption Another image of the suspected attacker

She passed out when she was hit with a brick.

When she regained consciousness, she said the woods appeared "dark" and she started to panic and vomit.

Eventually, she crawled down the embankment and made her way to a nearby house, climbing over a garden fence.

The elderly couple who lived in the house with their daughter brought the child inside and called an ambulance.

The woman said she had childhood counselling and tried to move on with the rest of her life, but the investigation was reopened four-and-a-half years ago, when someone contacted police saying they knew the identity of the rapist.

The victim revisited the scene with detectives, but as yet, no-one has been brought to justice.

On Tuesday, the 20th anniversary of the attack, the police released two new images of the suspect.

Image copyright PSNI
Image caption Police released an "age progression" image of the suspect as he may appear now

The woman said she wants to track down the attacker to prevent him repeating his crimes on others.

"I do get angry about it, thinking 20 years later he's still walking about you know? Is he still in this area? Does he know who I am now maybe?

"Stuff like that goes through your mind, especially now that I have children of my own."

The woman said her traumatic ordeal has made her anxious and "very protective" of her own children.

She added she would feel much safer if the rapist was caught.

"I wouldn't be as anxious as I am, and just to think, he did it to me 20 years ago - what he has he done in those 20 years? Has it done it to anybody else?"

The victim added that she wanted to get the rapist "off the streets and get the justice I deserve".

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