Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland parents fear a 'predator is on the loose' after village school alerted

By Victoria Leonard

Parents in a Co Antrim village say they fear a "predator is on the loose" after a primary school principal warned that a schoolgirl had been "sexually accosted".

Gloria Trueick, the head of Ballycarry primary, wrote to parents informing them of the alleged incident - involving a pupil from another school - and urged them to be vigilant.

The advice came in a letter sent on Monday afternoon, around 72 hours after the incident is said to have taken place.

Police said they have increased patrols in the area after reports of a man performing "a lewd act".

The letter from the principal states: "Dear parent/guardian, I was made aware that a schoolgirl was sexually accosted on Friday afternoon in Ballycarry.

"This was not one of our pupils. The man was middle aged, from 30-50 years.

"He is approximately 5'9", was wearing a black beany hat, a black jacket, black trousers and black shoes.

"He may have been bald, he had no facial hair or glasses. I would recommend that we are all vigilant."

Father-of-five Chris O'Neill, whose nine-year-old autistic son was the subject of a failed abduction attempt in the Co Antrim village last year, said he wouldn't allow his three eldest children to walk to or from school after learning of the latest incident.

"It's horrifying that something like this could happen just five minutes from a school in a small, rural village," he said.

"The kids aren't able to walk to school by themselves any more - they are suffering as there is potentially a predator on the loose. It makes me feel shocked and angry.

"My eight-year-old daughter is a pupil at Ballycarry Primary School, and sometimes she would have walked home with her nine-year-old brother.

"It's a terribly worrying time, especially as it's not the first time something like this has happened in the village.

"Last year, a woman in a car approached my son and asked him if he wanted sweets.

"She said she would take him home and get sweets for his brothers and sisters. But she wasn't able to name them, and he realised something was wrong and ran home.

"We alerted the police, but I don't think anyone was ever caught. I am also aware of a third incident which happened in the village a few years ago. I don't know why this is happening repeatedly in Ballycarry."

Mr O'Neill feels more should have been done to alert parents to the potential threat sooner.

"I got a text from the school on Monday, then I also received the letter from the school when my son got home," he added.

"When I saw that the incident had happened on Friday I was shocked - you want to do all you can to protect your kids, and we just live down the road from where it happened.

"I put a picture of the letter up on the Ballycarry community page and for many other parents it was also the first time they had been made aware of the incident.

"If the incident happened on Friday then Monday was probably the first opportunity for the school to alert parents to what had happened, but I think the PSNI could have done more by sharing the information on its local Facebook page."

Police confirmed they are investigating a report of a teenage girl encountering a man "performing a lewd act" in Ballycarry's Manse Road area last Friday.

Inspector Martin Ruddy said: "As a result of this report, we (PSNI) have stepped up our patrols in the area and have launched an investigation. I would appeal to anyone who has any information about this incident to contact police at Carrickfergus on the non-emergency number 101, quoting reference 1017 01/12/17."

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