Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland woman raped as child in 1994 goes public in plea to other victims

By Staff Reporter

A woman from Co Down who was raped and left for dead when she was just eight in 1994 believes she is not her attacker's only victim.

Waiving her anonymity, Simone Cunnane from Newry recalled how she pleaded with the man not to hurt her after he lured her into the woods.

There, she was raped, hanged from a tree and hit over the head with a brick.

While no one has been convicted of the brutal attack, detectives arrested a man on January 30 this year.

In a powerful interview with Sunday World, Ms Cunnane, who now works for Women's Aid and the Nexus sexual abuse counselling service, spoke out to encourage other possible victims to come forward to the police.

She said: "The man approached us, he was smiling and told us he had lost his wee brother and that sometimes he played in the woods and would we help him find him.

"I told him 'I'm not allowed in the woods', but my friend said sometimes he would play there so stupidly he went with him.

"I went too, and once he got us into the woods he told my friend to go in one direction and then he told me that I had to follow him.

"He led me to an overgrown area and we were sitting on a small muck pile when he reached into his pocket and took out this rope.

"It was tied like a noose and as he took it out he said: 'My brother gave me this before he left'. The next thing he had it around my neck and was tightening it.

"I was choking and I tried to pull it away with my fingers.

"Then I started to shout and he put his hands over my mouth and told me to shut up and that he had a knife. I begged him: 'Please don't do this'."

The little girl's pleas fell on deaf ears and she was brutally rape.

She added: "He did things to me and made me do things to him, then he told me to stand up.

"He had the rope on me still and he took me towards the tree where there was a bit of an embankment.

"With the rope that was around my neck, he tied the other part of it to a branch and pushed it off the embankment and I was swinging from the tree.

"As I was grabbing at my neck to try and get the rope off, I could see him standing in front of me, smiling. At some point I must have gone unconscious and the tree branch snapped.

"This is when he must have hit me on the back of the head with the brick.

"I was told after that he raped me as I was lying there unconscious."

Eventually, Ms Cunnane managed to free herself and fled towards the home of a couple who called an ambulance and got her to Daisy Hill Hospital.

At the time police interviewed the girl and launched a major investigation - but the attacker was never found.

Five years ago the investigation was reopened when computer generated images of the suspect were released by police.

A man was arrested last month and released on police bail pending further investigations.

Ms Cunnane, who has always held the belief she was not the attacker's sole victim, has been contacted through her role in Nexus and Women's Aid by others who believe the same man attacked them.

She wants any more possible victims to come forward.

Ms Cunnane said: "I know I am not the only one he has attacked.

"We came up with the idea that these women and anyone else who might come forward can go to Women's Aid and get support and counselling with Nexus.

"Some of these women are ready to go and some are not, but the support is there for them."

Belfast Telegraph

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