Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Victim hits out at police probe into child rape case

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, is to lodge a complaint with the Police Ombudsman over what she claims have been “significant failings” in the police investigation into her case. 

In a statement provided to The Examiner, 31 year old Simone Cunnane accused 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 woman says she 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. 

The arrest of a man in relation to her case in February this year prompted Ms Cunnane to waive her right of anonymity and speak out about her ordeal.  The man was arrested in Newry in January before being released on bail pending further enquiries. Following the arrest PSNI referred the case to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS). 

Ms Cunnane also claims that since she waived her right to anonymity, she has been approached by a number of women who allege to have been assaulted by same man and that they too are also making complaints to the police ombudsman to have their cases re-examined.

In her statement, Ms Cunnane said that whilst she is delighted that police have issued a file to the public prosecution service in an effort to secure an outcome, she is “not happy that it has taken this long for the police service to act.” 

“Over the years there have been significant failings in relation to my case and for that I am very disappointed in the lacklustre approach of the police,” she said, adding that she intends to bring the matter to the police ombudsman “in the hope that they can provide an independent investigation into police failings.”

“Since I went public in February I have been approached by a number of women who have indicated they have been assaulted by this particular man,” claims Ms Cunnane. 

“As a result of a lack of police help these women are also making complaints to the police ombudsman in the hope that their cases can be re-examined. These women wish to remain anonymous, however they along with myself are doing this to get this rapist off the streets and get the justice they deserve.

It also sends a clear message that cases like this will not go unanswered.”

Responding to the rape victim’s claims, a PSNI spokesperson confirmed that police submitted a file to the PPS for consideration in August this year. 

“Anyone with a complaint about police actions should contact the Office of the Police Ombudsman,” added the police spokesperson.