Belfast Telegraph

Peatlands Park rape victim feared she'd be killed, court told

By Alan Erwin

A woman ambushed and raped in a public park resigned herself to the sexual assault amid fears she would be killed, the High Court heard.

Prosecutors said the victim was attacked and stripped naked as she walked her dog in broad daylight in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, last week.

A judge was also told the 23-year-old man charged with carrying out the rape has since tried to strangle himself in custody. Details emerged as James Wright, of Derrylee Road in Dungannon, mounted an application for bail.

Crown lawyer Conor Maguire said the victim recalled being grabbed by her shoulders as she walked through Peatlands Park at around 2.30pm on April 27.

She screamed and struggled with the man, but he put a hand over her mouth which stopped her breathing. "She said she was scared, concerned that he was going to kill her and realised there was no-one there coming to help her," Mr Maguire told the court.

"At this point she became resigned to what was going to happen and said she did not resist (as) he put her to the ground."

The attacker removed all her clothing and his own trousers and shoes, according to the prosecution.

He then subjected her to a serious sexual assault, it was claimed. Mr Justice O'Hara was told the man spoke to her during the ordeal, asking various personal questions.

"She said she believed from his behaviour that he had a learning difficulty or some sort, as a result of that she adjusted her tone accordingly," Mr Maguire added.

At one point she asked for his name, but he allegedly refused, saying to her that she would tell someone and get him in trouble.

Based on a description provided by the woman, police carried out house-to-house inquiries in the area, resulting in Wright being arrested.

Another member of the public also claimed to have seen the accused wearing similar clothing and riding a bike near Peatlands Park two days earlier.

Forensic tests are being carried out on a bicycle and high-visibility jacket recovered from Wright's home. He declined to provide intimate body samples and refused to take part in an identification process, the court heard. However, Mr Maguire said the victim picked him out from a picture as being the man who raped her.

After being assessed by a psychiatrist as fit to be interviewed and charged, Wright would not answer questions put to him. Opposing bail, the prosecutor said: "This incident occurred in the middle of the day in an open, public area that is frequented by children, cyclists and dog walkers. "The attacker had no regard for the fact this woman was conducting an innocent activity, and no regard for the fact that passers-by could have come upon the scene."

Defence counsel countered that a second psychiatrist believes Wright's limited intelligence meant he was not fit to be interviewed or understand the proceedings. Raising the issues over his client's suitability for any potential trial, the barrister said: "He's got an IQ of 44. I have never personally come across a criminal trial taking place with someone who has an IQ of less than 50."

He also told the court Wright claimed to have tried to strangle himself on Wednesday night.

Adjourning the bail application, Mr Justice O'Hara requested more information on medical issues and the safety of Wright's current detention.

Belfast Telegraph


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