Parents give thanks for support
The families of two girls allegedly raped by a homeless man have paid tribute to investigators and the public for the comfort given to their "precious little daughters".
A 30-year-old has been remanded in custody after being charged with four counts of rape on the six and nine-year-olds.
The girls' parents said the level of public empathy and assistance has been immense in recent days.
"We would like to express our heartfelt appreciation of An Garda Siochana for their support and tireless efforts at this difficult time," they said in a statement issued through the Westmeath Independent.
"Their compassion and professionalism has been a source of great comfort for us and, more importantly, for our precious little daughters.
"The other professional care providers have also helped us to begin to find our way through this challenging period.
"Finally, we would also like to recognise the kindness and practical support that we have received from the people of Athlone.
"The level of public empathy and practical assistance has been immense and again it has been a source of comfort to us all at this most difficult time."
The alleged offences happened on Saturday when the children went missing from a birthday party in a housing estate on the outskirts of Athlone.
More than 300 people staged a protest outside Athlone Garda station on Monday while the suspect was being questioned by detectives.
He appeared before Longford District Court yesterday, where Judge Seamus Hughes ordered that he be given protection in prison and put on suicide watch.
The accused man, who is unemployed and homeless, cannot be named for legal reasons.
Defence solicitor Gearoid Geraghty also made an application for a psychiatric evaluation on his client amid concerns over his ability to raise a plea.
The accused man will reappear before Harristown District Court on Friday.
Two other men arrested in connection with the incident were released without charge on Monday morning.