Locals urged not to take vigilante action

by Emma Nolan

It has been widely reported that Gardai have identified a suspect who they think is responsible for a spate of sexual assaults on females which occurred in the Shankill area since December 2015, however Gardai would not confirm this to the Gazette.
No arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing.
The incidents occurred during the hours of darkness from 7 to 10pm. In each case a lone male approached a lone female and an alleged assault took place. An incident room to investigate these incidents has been set up in Shankill Garda Station.
The first incident occurred on December 2 and took place close to Shankill Dart Station. The second occurred on January 3, near the entrance of the Holly Park housing estate. Two further assaults were reported on February 9 and 10, on Quinn’s Road and Military Road near Killiney. Meanwhile, two suspicious approaches in the area were also reported on January 20 and February 7.
The incidents have been described locally as attempted attacks with no one being seriously hurt.
Local councillor and general election hopeful Cormac Devlin (FF) spoke to The Gazette about the incidents.
“There is a definite line of enquiry”, he said, “Gardai have increased the patrols and the council and Iarnroid Eireann have undertaken works to ensure that better lighting would be installed and shrubs cut back in the vicinity of the Dart station in particular.
“I’m very hopeful that the individual will be caught because it’s causing a lot of fear, anger and anxiety in the area particularly for women.”
Devlin is hoping that the locals will remain vigilant and cooperate with Gardai while the suspect remains at large.
Many locals have been discussing the situation on the Facebook community page, Shankill Open Forum where the anger of not feeling safe in their own community is palpable. One women said: “It’s a very sad situation at my age and having a 17 year old daughter to be left so afraid and nervous. As these attacks are happening day and night.” [sic]
Local shop, High Tec Spec, have been giving away personal rape alarms to women who walk in these areas frequently.
Locals attended a public meeting to address the assaults last Thursday February 11, where many expressed their frustration over a lack of garda visibility. Inspector James Murphy assured the locals that they were following lines of enquiry but also warned them against taking vigilante action against any suspect individuals.
Councillor and election candidate Maria Bailey (FG) told The Gazette that “a lot of children come off that Dart in the late afternoon when it is dark in the winter and parents are concerned.
“The Gardai have been very proactive down here and have worked in tandem with the community to hopefully achieve a good outcome for this unprecedented event.”
A number of statements have been taken and numerous lines of enquiry are currently being conducted together with CCTV and House to house enquiries.
Gardaí are asking any witnesses or persons with information to contact them at Shankill station on 01-6665900 or the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111.

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