Prayers for Northern Ireland baby 'raped' at two weeks old
Plea for calm as two-week-old lies in intensive care after alleged rape
Prayers are being said for a two-week-old baby who remains in intensive care at a Belfast hospital after allegedly being raped.
The newborn from Annalong, Co Down, had initially been treated at a hospital in the Southern Trust area before being transferred to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.
A spokesman for the Belfast Trust declined to give an update on the condition of the child last night.
A Southern Trust official said it would be "inappropriate" to comment due to the ongoing police investigation by detectives from the PSNI serious crime unit.
A 25-year-old man - charged with rape and grievous bodily harm in connection to the alleged attack on September 29 - is currently in custody on remand at Maghaberry Prison after a hearing at Armagh Magistrates Court on Tuesday. The accused, who remained impassive throughout the short hearing at which no application for bail was made, will appear at Newry Magistrates Court via videolink next Wednesday, October 10.
The defendant cannot be named in order to protect the identity of the child.
Yesterday, the PSNI was forced to warn the public via social media not to name the alleged perpetrator online.
The PSNI's Facebook page for the Newry, Mourne and Down district - which covers the area where the baby is from - said yesterday that if comments appear anywhere on social media identifying the alleged defendant it could prove to be prejudicial to legal proceedings.
Stressing they acknowledged that it is an "extremely emotive incident", the PSNI said that "justice will not be able to be fully served if social media comments spiral out of control".
Referring to a murder trial being dismissed in the UK in recent years due to social media comments, the post stressed that to ignore their warning could result in the PSNI taking legal action against Facebook users.
Police also warned people to be careful about sharing other people's posts on social media.
"Naming the suspect will give their defence counsel an opportunity to taint any future jury trial. Sharing, commenting or liking a post naming the individual will give defence counsel an angle," it continued.
They were joined by officers in Craigavon who also ordered Facebook users to adhere to the court order which prohibits the accused from being named.
"If you breach that you could be committing an offence," it warned.
Yesterday, independent councillor, Henry Reilly, who lives in Annalong, told the Belfast Telegraph local people are reeling from the deeply shocking news. He said people were praying for the baby's recovery.
"The whole area is in deep shock. People in the community are really, really angry," he said.
"There is anger and disbelief right across the entire Mourne area. I've never witnessed so much anger.
"There have been terrible things that happened in the area over the years but this has united people in saying prayers for the baby."
Mr Reilly added: "People can't get their heads around it.
"There is just tremendous anger."