Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Barcroft rape victim: Frustration at lack of progress into Police Ombudsman complaint

A woman who was subjected to a brutal and violent rape before being left for dead in a forest near Newry city centre when she was just 8 years old, has called on the Police Ombudsman to make progress into her complaint against police for what she claims have been “significant failings” in the police investigation into her case. 

Simone Cunanne made a complaint to the Police Ombudsman in September last accusing the police of a “lacklustre approach” to the investigation into the 1994 attack and said she hopes the ombudsman can provide an independent inquiry into the alleged failings. 

The schoolgirl was playing with a friend close to Barcroft Community Centre on June 10 1994 when she was approached by a man aged in his late teens or early 20s. He lured her and her young friend to woodland at Daisy Hill Nursery under the guise of searching for his lost little brother, but, after managing to separate the children, he produced a length of rope in a noose and tied it around young Simone’s neck before subjecting her to a relentless series of sex assaults at knifepoint.  The eight year old was strung from the branch of a tree and pushed from an embankment, with his terrified victim recalling him smiling as he watched her claw at the rope before she fell unconscious.   The young mum still bears a scar on the back of her head where the monster hit her with a brick as she lay on the ground after the tree branch snapped.  She was later told that the man raped her whilst she lay unconscious before leaving her for dead.

Police reopened the investigation into the shocking assault in 2013, treating it as attempted murder.  Fresh appeals for information were made and two computer generated images of the suspect were released. 

Ms Cunanne’s Police Ombudsman complaint maintains that vital evidence from the scene has been either lost or destroyed by police, including the attacker’s keys and cigarette packet that was left at the scene. She also claims that the original investigating officer in the case failed to officially log the attack and that, despite there being a record of the same officer collecting her DNA from Daisy Hill Hospital as part of his investigation, the DNA has also been lost by police. 

Ms Cunanne says she has been left frustrated at the lack of progress that has been made and said she also wants to see action against the individual officer that was leading the initial police investigation. 

A spokesperson for the Police Ombudsman confirmed it is “continuing to progress the investigation into this complaint”.