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Man (23) arrested after woman raped while walking her dog in Northern Ireland park

By Cate McCurry

Published 29/04/2016

Police at the scene where a serious sexual assault was carried out at Peatlands Park, Dungannon
Police at the scene where a serious sexual assault was carried out at Peatlands Park, Dungannon

Police have arrested a man after a woman was seriously sexually assaulted while walking her dog in a Co Tyrone park.

The 23-year-old is currently in police custody.

The woman was set upon by a man at around 2.45pm in Peatlands Park, near Dungannon, on Wednesday.

The attacker was described as in his 20s, 6ft tall, clean shaven with a chubby face and droopy eyes. He fled on a mountain bike and was wearing all-black clothing, a high-visibility jacket and a cycling helmet.

Eileen Calder, a former rape crisis councillor and women's rights activist, said stranger rape was a very real danger.

"This so-called advice is given out to women - that they should not be alone at night, that they should watch what they wear, that they should stay in groups and get taxis," she added.

"But the fact is that rape can happen anywhere - in your own home, in your local park.

"That type of stranger rape is much more rare than acquaintance rape, but it's still a very real danger for women out there.

"It's a disgrace we cannot go out and do normal, everyday things without the threat and fear of threats of violence.

"Women should be able to go about their normal business without the fear of something like that happening.

"It's a terrible thing, and somebody must have some idea about who was in that place and who owns a mountain bike.

"Anyone who has any information should get in contact with the police."

Malachy Quinn, an SDLP councillor for mid-Ulster, also condemned the attack.

"I go to Peatlands Park once or twice a week, and it's a family-friendly place and great to go with friends or to walk the dog," Mr Quinn added.

"Then, on the other hand, if you want to go and get your head showered and have time to yourself there's those walks too. It's used all year round and it's always full of people.

"That's why I was so shocked to hear about this attack. I was disgusted by it.

"There are places that you will be on your own and they can be dangerous. I'm very disgusted that someone has been attacked like this in Peatlands Park."

Ulster Unionist Upper Bann candidate Doug Beattie said his thoughts were with the victim at this "very traumatic time". "The entire community will be united in its disgust at the news that a woman should be the victim of such a brutal assault," he added.

"The fact that it took place in broad daylight and in a park widely used by families serves to compound the horror.

"This is clearly a very dangerous individual who must be caught immediately and put behind bars where he can no longer pose a threat to women."

Police said officers from the rape crime unit were investigating the serious sexual assault.

Detective Inspector Lynne Knox described it as an "appalling attack" and asked for the public's help in tracking down the perpetrator.

"I would appeal to anyone who may have witnessed this assault or observed anything suspicious to contact detectives at the rape crime unit on the non-emergency number 101," she added.

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