Belfast Telegraph

Shock as woman is charged over 'false rape claim'

By John Mulgrew

A woman who claimed she was raped in front of her two young children in Co Armagh has been charged with wasting police time and perverting the course of justice.

The charges relate to an incident in March where a 24-year-old woman told police she was raped in a park in Bessbrook, Co Armagh.

She told police she was attacked by a man walking his dog as she approached an area known as the Bridge in Derramore Woods.

Police had appealed to the public to help find the attacker who was described as in his 50s, with white hair, wearing a beret and dark-coloured jacket.

At the time local politicians in the area rallied to express their sympathies to the family and said the entire community was shocked and horrified.

SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley, who, along with other councillors and Assembly Members had condemned the attack, said he could not understand what could have provoked someone into reporting an alleged false claim. "Obviously it's a serious charge - wasting police time, and to claim that such an horrific crime had happened, it sent shockwaves through the community at the time," he said.

"It deterred a lot of people from walking in that area - people only now seem to be using the area once again.

"I don't know why someone would do something like that, but no doubt it will become known in time as the court proceedings take place."

Shortly after the attack was reported one resident living close to the woods described the "local beauty spot" as a "very dangerous area".

Sinn Fein councillor Pat McGinn said the allegations of sexual assault "must be treated with the utmost seriousness, and should be subjected to a full and rigorous investigation by the PSNI".

Councillor John Feehan, who lives close to the Derramore Woods, said the alleged false claim should not deter people from reporting crimes in future.

"Obviously I'm happy it didn't occur - people were worried that a person would be in their midst and it would appear that it didn't occur in the first place," Mr Feehan said.

"If someone is attacked they should continue to report it to police."

The 24-year-old woman charged with the offences is to appear in court in Newry next month.

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