Face-to-face with the main suspect in the Inga Maria Hauser murder case

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Today marks 30 years since a sheep farmer discovered the battered body of 18 year-old Inga Maria Hauser in a remote spot of Ballypatrick Forest Park on the outskirts of Ballycastle, Co Antrim.

The backpacker from Munich had arrived in Northern Ireland on April 6, 1988 after taking a ferry from Scotland just a few hours before.

She was on an adventure. Travelling around Europe, discovering new parts of the world with the hope of making new friends. She’d almost finished that once-in-a-lifetime trip when she stepped off the boat that morning in Larne. Sadly, she was never seen alive again.

Inga Maria was brave. We know that because despite Northern Ireland being in the midst of a fierce bombing and bullet campaign, where innocent lives were lost week in and week out, this bright, bubbly young woman still wanted to visit, to explore the troubled province, all on her own. We also know she was brave because, as police have confirmed, she fought for her life. Her attacker responded by assaulting her so viciously, he broke her neck.

Her killer is still free and as dangerous, if not more so, than ever. He has enjoyed three decades of freedom, while the Hauser family have endured a lifetime of heartache.

SDLP MLA John Dallat, who has for the last 30 years appealed to those who have information on the murder to come forward, said today: “Wouldn’t it be great if we were to learn that the culprit has been arrested and the witnesses had broken their silence.

“Surely they must realise the whole community is behind them doing that, something which would bring peace to themselves but especially to the Hauser Family.

“Fingers crossed and prayers that those witnesses will find the strength to take the only option they have – tell it all and if they haven’t already done it, do it tomorrow.”

Below is a piece I wrote for last week’s Sunday World newspaper days after John and blogger Keeley Moss helped unveil a touching memorial to Inga Maria at the entrance to Ballypatrick Forest.

As you will read I spoke to the suspect in the case, a man who was on the very same boat as Inga Maria during that fateful journey. He lives in a tight knit and small community in Co Antrim, an area regularly targeted by police appeals for anyone, and detectives believe there are a few people, with information on her murder to come forward.

Maybe this year, someone finally will.

A SUSPECT in the brutal murder of German backpacker Inga-Maria Hauser claims police have “tortured” him over her death.

The Co Antrim man, now in his 50s, has been arrested and questioned multiple times over the shocking 1988 murder, but told the Sunday World last week: “I had nothing to do with it.”

It can be revealed the grandfather, who lives in a tiny village close to the spot where the 18 year-old’s battered body was dumped, was one of the last people to see the Munich teen alive.

He became the focus of the high-profile killing investigation after telling murder cops he saw the tourist on-board the fateful Ulster bound ferry where she met her murderer.

He has also denied he is the man police say was spotted with scratches on his face days after Inga-Maria disappeared after travelling to Northern Ireland.

The haulage worker, who we can’t name for legal reasons, spoke out ahead of the 30th anniversary of the teenager’s death.

Over 200 people gathered on Friday to unveil a touching memorial to the Munich woman at Ballypatrick Forest Park, Ballycastle, where a farmer found her beaten body three decades ago.

Following the touching service, organised by SDLP MLA John Dallat, police again made a direct appeal to a number of individuals living in rural Antrim who they believe can solve the killing.

Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray said: “We are all getting older, we are moving on – is this something that you want to take with you to your grave?

“Some people are like that, but some people are not, some people struggle and I think this person is struggling.

“It is not too late now to examine your own conscience and come forward to the police.

“What we need is just those few fractional pieces of evidence to help us complete the picture. We think we are close.”

In 2016 a man was arrested but later released over the killing.

It can be revealed that a “distressed” individual living in a tight-knit GAA community in Co Antrim was close to telling cops what they knew about the sexually motivated murder some years ago.

However due to health problems, they did not go ahead.

A source said: “This person has already told someone that they know what happened Inga-Maria.

“They know who killed her, why they killed her and who helped them dispose of her body.

“It has weighed heavily on them for years and they were close to telling police formally what they knew but due to ill health it wasn’t possible.

“However officers are still hopeful this person will eventually come forward and assist.

“The guilt of knowing who was responsible for killing an innocent young woman – a sister, a daughter – who had her whole life ahead of her, is weighing heavily on their conscience.”

The Sunday World travelled to the rural village which police believe holds the key to solving Inga-Maria’s murder last week.

There we spoke to the man who locals say has lived under cloud of suspicion since the April 1988 killing.

Part of a well respected family who say the man has been “tortured” by police, he told our reporter on the doorstep of his countryside home: “I spoke to police and told them what I could. I had nothing to do with it whatsoever. I’ve been tortured over it.”

A male relative of the suspect, also spoke to this newspaper.

He said: “(Suspect’s name) was the one who went to police and then arrested for trying to help.

“He even wanted to go and meet the woman’s parents in Germany to tell them it wasn’t him, but was advised against it

“The police carried out DNA tests in the area and through that he was cleared. I also gave DNA, as did many others voluntarily.”

“It’s about time police started to ask why they are not getting a match to the DNA here, I believe it’s because the murderer is not here.

“There is no way anyone in this community would hide a murderer.”

Inga-Maria Hauser was last seen alive as she journeyed by ferry from Stranraer to Larne on April 6, 1988.

Her battered body was found dumped in Ballypatrick Forest Park, on the outskirts of Ballycastle,14 days later by a farmer walking his dog.

Her neck had been broken in what police described as a “vicious and ruthless” assault. Detectives believe her killer had a sexual motive.

Her belongings, including a diary and a camera, were laid out beside her body and revealed she had not penned one entry on her time in Northern Ireland. Eight rolls of film also showed she had not taken one picture of her short time here.

Detectives are convinced this is because she was murdered shortly after getting off the ferry.

One line of inquiry is that Inga had stepped off the boat before realising she had left a bag with her belongings on-board.

She went back but by the time she returned to exit off the foot terminal, it had been closed.

It meant she then had to leave through the vehicle exit, where it is believed she accepted a lift from a lorry driver. She was never seen alive again.

Last week police released further information about their investigation into her murder, including how cops travelled to Scotland to piece together her last movements.

A team of detectives handed out leaflets to passengers on board and spoke to those waiting in terminals at Belfast and Cairnryan.

Det Chief Supt Raymond Murray, said: “We already know Inga Maria’s movements during her journey around England from London to Bath and on to Liverpool.

“However, we need to know more about what she did and who she met while in Scotland.”

Prior to her death the backpacker travelled around England. After leaving Liverpool she journeyed to Preston and then north to Inverness in Scotland.

She took the train to Glasgow and on to Stranraer.

Mr Murray said: “She will have stood out from the crowd with her German accent and distinctive style of clothing – she was wearing baseball boots and a long, flowing skirt, possibly multi-coloured, a jacket, possibly denim, with a large blue rucksack.

“On top of this rucksack was a smaller bag with a distinctive US Air Force badge.”

He added: “The murder was brutal, the attack was brutal and the assault was brutal.

“But there is something horrendously callous about leaving that young girl’s body lyng unattended in a forest for 14 days. All murder is outrageous but that gives another dimension to the horror of that final evening.”

Police also have a male DNA profile from the crime scene but have yet to secure a positive match.

In one of the largest screenings ever undertaken in the UK, 2,000 samples have so far failed to produce a definitive match.

However, officers are expecting the results of further testing, including a trawl of updated familial DNA samples, within days.

Mr Murray added: “We have had it from day one. It has been run and the scientists have it at the minute and those results are about to come back to the investigation team.

“We are investigators and we keep an open mind but the evidence and the information and the intelligence that we have to date has led us to focus on a very, very small number of individuals.”

ENDS

The RUC widow left with a collusion legacy

Published in the Sunday World (March 25, 2018)

IT’S been over 40 years since Rosemary Campbell was left a heartbroken widow.
But for the 84 year-old nothing has changed since the day her Catholic RUC husband was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries.
That’s because the grandmother has been left with a collusion legacy where walls of silence still exist, and an unwillingness to open the dark doors of the past remains intact.
No-one will tell the Co Antrim woman, left to bring up eight children on her own, that her husband’s death did not involve paramilitary-linked RUC colleagues.
Her long-held belief unshaken despite the lack of conclusive evidence made available to the Police Ombudsman, and more recently, being “let down” by the PSNI.
She told the Sunday World: “Three years ago PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton visited me in my home.
“He had not read the file into Joseph’s murder and he said he wasn’t sure what else he could do for us.
“He said we’d got a trial, a Police Ombudsman’s report…then he suggested compensation.
“But as my daughter told him that day, the thing we really want no-one can give us – to hear Joseph voice again.
“My son did however give him some information on those involved, and he said he’d go straight back to the police headquarters, look into it and get back to him.
“We are still waiting. We feel completely let down.”
Last week the family were notified that 14 years after submitting a high court writ against the RUC over Sgt Campbell’s death, defence teams for the force have finally responded.
It is hoped the case will proceed this year, but the family say a time scale is currently unclear.
The Donegal-born Sergeant was shot dead as he locked up the gates of Cushendall RUC station in Co Antrim on February 25, 1977.
He’d previously served in Derry as well as Crossmaglen, where a Co Armagh nationalist MP launched a petition to keep him stationed after news he was to be moved.
The day after his murder a Church of Ireland minister broke down on TV as he paid tribute to the officer. He was admired by all sections of the community.
When he was gunned down it was first believed the 49 year-old had been murdered by the IRA.
But within days the murky truth of who was responsible began to emerge.
His son Joe said: “The reason my father was killed was because he was very good at his job. “He discovered something so sensitive that it led to the decision to kill him.
“But I am also confident that my father would not have been killed if he’d been of the Protestant faith.
“He knew that there were people in Special Branch in Ballymena working closely with the army and loyalist terrorists committing atrocities across south Derry and the north Antrim area.
“Key to that they were smuggling guns from our neighbouring parish in Waterfoot through Red Bay and they took the decision to kill him.
“A serial killer, Robin Jackson… was employed by, supported by and covered up for, by the security forces.”
Jackson was not only a member of the Mid-Ulster UVF, but also a member of the notorious Glenanne Gang and a Special Branch agent.
He is suspected of being involved in around 100 sectarian murders before his death in 1998.
Speaking at a Truth and Reconciliation Platform (TaRP) event held in Bellaghy, Co Derry last week, Joe told how he challenged Jackson face-to-face over his father’s murder.
Standing alongside other victims’ relatives and Troubles’ survivors including Stephen Travers, Alan McBride and Eugene Reavey, he said: “It didn’t end well. He didn’t admit to the killing.”
In 2014 a 11 year Police Ombudsman investigation into Sgt Campbell’s murder came to a conclusion.
It stated that the 49 year-old’s murder could have been prevented by senior RUC commanders.
The watchdog added that evidence of collusion could only be determined as “inconclusive”.
“I was briefed every few months in terms of the Ombudsman investigations,” said Joe.
“I was told Special Branch organised the murder by the Ombudsman, I was told there were systematic attempts at cover-up by hiding and destroying documents, a number of ex-RUC officers didn’t co-operate with the Ombudsman, there were many, many, many in senior positions who didn’t.
“Sir Kenneth Newman, who went on to head the Metropolitan Police, said he couldn’t remember the case. It was on his watch.
“Two other assistant chief constables refused to co-operate. One, the Ombudsman told me, that when investigators knocked on his door, he told them ‘f*** off’.”
The only conviction in the case, which was later quashed on appeal, was that of retired RUC Special Branch officer Charles McCormick.
He was convicted of charges including possession of explosives and firearms and armed robbery three years after the sergeant’s death.
A second man Anthony O’Doherty, originally from Portglenone in Co Antrim, was convicted of withholding information about the murder but later received a royal prerogative of mercy.
A republican, O’Doherty was recruited by McCormick to become a Special Branch informer.
Despite disappointment after disappointment, the family still hold out hope for justice, and the truth.
In 2014 the Attorney General ordered a fresh inquest into Sgt Campbell’s death.John Larkin made the call after being presented with fresh evidence by the family’s solicitor Fearghál Shiels.
Said Joe: “I’d say to the people out there looking for justice, don’t give up.
“It’s a hard road and the investigation took 11 years, concurrent to that we took out a writ against the RUC in 2004, they decided last week they are going to answer it.
“Meanwhile, we aren’t going to give up.”

ENDS

 

‘I want to send a clear message to all abusers…we are coming after you. You will all face justice’

 

Last week I spoke to institutional abuse survivor Cecil Wilson, who after almost four decades, bravely made a formal police complaint about a violent assault carried out by a teacher inside one of Northern Ireland’s most notorious children’s homes.

This June will exactly mark 40 years since Cecil was left with permanent damage to his mouth after Bill Brown – now 74- smashed a set of keys into his face in a fit of rage at Co Down’s Rathgael Training School.

Last week Brown, from Donaghadee, Co Down, was convicted of child cruelty after a District Judge praised Cecil’s honesty in recounting the brutal attack, which evetually left him without an entire row of his top teeth.

I have went into more detail about the court case further down in this post, but one of the most important things I think that should be acknowledged, first and foremost, is just how important Cecil’s case is for victims of institutional abuse here.

The many, many victims who have been left in limbo 15 months after Sir Anthony Hart’s damning report which stated wideapread abuse went on in state run, religious and/or charitable run homes here. And almost 9 months since Sir Anthony Hart appealed to politicians to implement his recommendations, which included compensation, a memorial and a public apology, as “a matter of urgency”.

Cecil’s case shows that even those who only find the courage to come forward about abuss after some length of time can still get justice.

As victims campaigner Martin Adams said:

“Cecil has been very courageous and has remained very dignified throughout his quest for justice.

“His verdict is for all victims”.

Originally published in the Sunday World (March 18, 2018)

THIS is the brave abuse victim who took on a bully boy teacher 40 years after an horrific assault in a notorious children’s home.

Bangor man Cecil Wilson (55) was left scarred for life after cruel PE teacher Bill Brown launched a violent attack on him in Rathgael Training School in 1978.

But it is only this month, four decades on, that the grandfather has got justice over the assault which has left him without a row of his front teeth.

Ards Magistrates Court last week found pensioner Brown, of High Bangor Road, Donaghadee, guilty of child cruelty after hearing how he smashed a set of keys into Cecil’s face in front of other pupils.

The teenage boy, sent to the Co Down institution for delinquency, spent days in hospital after the violent and humiliating attack which still haunts him to this day.

Yesterday he broke his silence over the abuse telling the Sunday World: “I will continue to fight for other victims of Ulster’s institutional abuse scandal.”

Cecil said: “For me nothing really has changed in terms of the damage he done to me, that will stay with me forever.

“But the fact he was convicted is a good thing, and I hope it gives other victims hope that they can still take on their abusers years on.”

Cecil was forced to relive the horrific attack after Brown pleaded not guilty to the charge last Tuesday.

He told how on June 30, 1978 he and other pupils were attending a PE class in the complex when Brown announced that a set of his keys had been stolen.

They were found a short time later by teacher who, after hearing Cecil giggle about the incident, approached him and smashed the keys directly into his mouth with a clenched fist.

As a result the 15 year-old was forced to spend several days in the school’s sick bay and received treatment from an on-site matron and a dentist.

The court was told there were logs of the incident by the matron, and a dentist was also made aware of the assault.

But it was only in 2013 that Mr Wilson came forward and reported the abuse to police after seeing a TV appeal asking for victims of historical institutional abuse to come forward.

A year later the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIA) concluded that there had been a systematic failure at the Rathgael facility to record physical punishment by some staff on children there.

Other allegations of sickening abuse, including sexual assaults, were also highlighted.

Defence for Brown last week said the teacher “literally could not remember him” being a resident in the school and up until five years ago was “totally unaware of the allegations”.

The lawyer also told the court that during Brown’s career in the school he was suspended after being the subject of a “lengthy investigation”. However he was cleared and later reinstated to his role.

He claimed his client was of “impeccable character” before adding that there were other young males present on that day who he said could have caused Cecil’s injury.

Brown’s lawyer added that it was “not unknown” for individuals to convince themselves over a 40 year period of incidents that did not happen.

However Judge Hamill said he could not believe that Mr Wilson had invented a memory and that a “lack of scintilla of an alternative explanation” of how the 15 year-old sustained the injury, meant he found the defence’s case “hard to swallow”.

He convicted the 74 year-old of a single charge of child cruelty and ordered him to pay a fine of £100, as well as £500 compensation to Cecil.

“What Brown did to me lives with everyday, but it was even more traumatic to have to face him in court, relive the abuse and be called a liar,” the victim told the Sunday World.

“When I look in the mirror I am reminded of what he did because I had to get four of my teeth removed because of the damage he caused.”

He added: “Victims have been waiting now 15 months since the HIA report came out and still haven’t been compensated, the government needs to get its finger out so survivors can be redressed before they all pass away.”

Victims campaigner Martin Adams, who has been supporting Cecil and other victims of institutional abuse, welcomed the verdict against Brown.

He said: “Cecil has been very courageous and has remained very dignified throughout his quest for justice. He takes no glory except that his verdict is for all victims and he has vowed to continue with our campaign to see justice for all.

“I want to send a clear message to those staff tasked to care and comfort vulnerable children, but abused that position to abuse them, we are coming after you all to face justice.”

ENDS

Bringing the horror of Ulster’s past into today’s classroom

 

By Patricia Devlin

POINTING at an image of his bandmates on an assembly hall screen, Stephen Travers asks a roomful of school pupils, ‘Can any of you identify the Protestants or the Catholics?’

It was a question no teacher would dare ask, but for the Miami Showband survivor it was part of an important lesson not being taught in today’s classroom – the horror of Ulster’s troubled past.

Some shook their heads, others sat in silence. All remained transfixed on the bass player’s harrowing words.

They heard about the bomb, how it prematurely ripped through the band’s bus before blowing the musicians off their feet.

They were told about the hail of bullets, how four of the band were shot at point blank range

And they learned how, as Stephen lay critically injured, he tried to whisper into the ear of his friend Fran O’Toole, unaware he’d just been shot 22 times in the face.

On Thursday 250 young people at St Louis Grammar School, Ballymena became the first in the province to hear Stephen’s story delivered in a school setting.

Three other men who also lost relatives in merciless attacks during the Troubles also spoke to students and staff about the devastating impact of paramilitary violence on their lives.

Eugene Reavey, who lost three brothers in a loyalist attack in their south Armagh home; Michael Gallagher whose only son Aodhan was killed in the Omagh bomb and Joe Campbell, whose RUC father was gunned down by loyalists, delivered heartbreaking testimonies to children as young as 12.

“You could have heard a pin drop when the stories were being told,” history and politics teacher Denise Johnston, who organised the event, told the Sunday World.

“I think they will take the stories they heard with them throughout their lives and in doing so seek out justice.

“Sometimes we shy away from talking to our young people about our past in an attempt to protect them from the full horror of it, but here in St Louis we believe that they are taught about past in variations,” Denise said.

“As part of our teaching of history and politics we want to give students the tools necessary to make informed decisions in the future.

“Our past is still our present in so many ways. The pupils fully engaged with the event.”

Stephen along with Eugene and the other relatives have been taking the Truth and Reconciliation Platform (TaRP) talks around Ireland for sometime.

But last week’s event was the first school they’d delivered their bomb and bullet legacy to.

Michael Gallagher spoke candidly about the day he lost son Aiden in the Real IRA’s 1998 Omagh bomb attack.

“One wee girl was very emotional,” he said. “In fact she left the hall but I was glad to see her come back again.

“The message certainly I was giving was we don’t want you to go through this pain and suffering, we want you to learn that there is a better way of resolving your disagreements and differences other than shooting and bombing. For me, that was the key message.

“And I do believe it should be part of the curriculum. The educationalists could put together something – that we probably would never totally agree on the narrative –  but yesterday I think listening to people’s person own experiences was absolutely invaluable.”

Stephen Travers, who watched three bandmates be murdered in the 1975 UVF Miami Showband massacre, agreed.

“Truth and Reconciliation Platform succeeds because it personalises the tragedy of violence by presenting a real, live link to the consequences of violence,” he said.

“The young people in Ballymena were able to identify and connect with the brother who lost his brothers, the father who lost his son, the son who lost his father and the friends who lost their friends; TaRP is a living history class.
“I certainly agree with Michael that it should be on the curriculum; for the past ten years, I’ve been inundated with requests to have my book be put on the curriculum and, perhaps, it’s time to seriously consider that.”

Two days after the event, the speakers are still getting inundated with messages of gratitude from the students they spoke to.

One wrote: “We heard things that we wouldn’t be able to read in a textbook or online.”

Another simply said: “They showed us how pointless the Troubles were and the true horror of these conflicts.”

ENDS

 

 

‘I know I am not the only one he has raped’ – woman left for dead after horror attack at 8 years old breaks silence

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Simone

aged 8

By Patricia Devlin

A WOMAN left for dead in a sickening sex attack when she was just eight years-old has broken her silence for the first time.
Brave Simone Cunnane from Newry, Co Down, has waived her right to anonymity to tell the Sunday World: “I know the identity of the stranger who raped me.”
The mum-of-two, 31, says she has now made a formal complaint to police, who are investigating her claims 24 years on.
The revelation comes after news a man in his 40s – also from the Newry area – was recently arrested in relation to the 1994 attempted murder.
In a child sex attack that shocked the nation, Simone was playing with a pal close to her Loanda Crescent home when a man lured her into nearby woodland.
He tied a rope around her neck, subjected her to a prolonged sex assault and then hung her from a tree.
The monster then hit her over the head with a brick and raped her as she lay unconscious.
Believing she was dead her attacker fled, leaving the bloodied youngster tied up and alone.
Miraculously she survived and broke free before raising the alarm.
Today she tells her story for the first time and reveals how she is helping other women who believe the same predator attacked them.
“This man was a stranger up until not that long ago,” she told the Sunday World in an exclusive interview.
“For legal reasons I can’t go into further detail about how I came to discover his identity, but I can say that I know he not only has attacked me but others as well.
“And that is why I am speaking out, because I want to help these women and tell them they aren’t alone, and there is help.”
Recounting the day she was attacked on June 10,1994, Simone told how she had been on her way to play football with a friend.
“It was a Friday around 4pm and we left my house to get sweets and made our way to the (Barcroft Community) centre.
“It wasn’t opened, we were about 10 minutes early so we sat outside close to some trees and this is when the man approached us.
“He was smiling and told us he’d lost his wee brother and that sometimes he played in the woods and would we help find him.
“I told him, ‘I’m not allowed in the woods’. But my other 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 told me that I had to follow him.
“He led me to an overgrowth 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 give 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 hand over my mouth, told me to shut up and that he had a knife.
“I begged him, ‘please, don’t do this’.
In the woodland, set within Daisy Hill Nursery, Simone was subjected to a relentless series of sex assaults.
“He did things to me and he made me do things to him,” she said.
“He then told me to stand up, he had the rope on me still, and he took me towards a tree where there was a bit of an embankment.
“With the rope that was on my neck, he tied the other part of it to a branch and pushed me off the embankment and I was swinging from the tree.
“As I was grabbing at my neck to try to get the rope off I could see him standing in front of me, smiling.
“At some point I must have went unconscious and the tree branch snapped. This is when he hit me on the back of the head with the brick.
“I have a scar on the back of my head still from it. I was told after that he raped me when I was lying there, unconscious.”
Simone woke up sometime later, covered in blood and mud.
“He must have pulled me back up and tied me to the tree,” she said.
“There was muck in my mouth, all over my face, and I was being sick, vomiting.
“There was blood all over me and I remember looking down and seeing all these knots – he had tied loads all over the rope. I was in a panic, I didn’t know if he was still there, or if he was still watching me.
“I was able to get my foot out and eventually I got free.”
The eight-year-old made her way through the woods and into the garden of a family home where a man was watering his flowers.
He spotted the distressed child and went to her rescue.
“I must have collapsed and when I woke he was lifting me up and I remember saying to him, ‘please don’t hurt me, too’.
“His wife wrapped a sheet around me and I can remember hearing them talking about taking me to hospital.”
It was around 7pm when a traumatised Simone was taken to Daisy Hill Hospital where doctors and nurses sprung into action and called police.
Her devastated parents, who were out looking for their daughter at the time, raced to her bedside.
Simone was examined and interviewed by police who took away her clothes and a number of items from the scene of the attack.
But despite a high profile investigation and numerous appeals over 23 years, no-one has been convicted of the despicable attack.
In February 2013, police re-opened the attempted murder investigation.
Detectives released two computer generated images of the suspect.
Last week a PSNI spokesman confirmed that a man on January 30, a man was arrested as part of the police investigation. He was released on police bail pending further enquiries.
Simone, who last week bravely returned to the scene of the attack, said: “I always did believe the person responsible was from the area.
He knew where he was going, it was pre-meditated as he had everything with him.
“What is disturbing is that since that day the man who attacked me has been walking the streets. I know I am not the only one he has attacked.”
Simone, who received support from sexual abuse counselling charity Nexus, has been contacted by numerous women who say they believe the evil predator also attacked them.
She is now now working with Women’s Aid and Nexus to run a support group for those women.
“I went to a lady called Fiona in the Newry Women’s Aid office and explained to her my story.
“I told her how there other girls had come forward to me believing they have been attacked by the same man.
“So 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 people are ready to go to police and some are not. But the support is there for them,”
Anyone who wishes to make contact with the group can phone Fiona at Newry Women’s Aid on 028 3025 0765.
ENDS

‘I worked on vital negotiations that I believe have changed Ireland forever, and for good’ Martin McGuinness

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Martin McGuinness

Martin McGuinness 1950 – 2017

News broke shortly after 7am today that Martin McGuinness, former IRA leader turned peacemaker, had passed away.

The 66-year-old Irish republican died after a short illness in Derry’s Altnagelvin hospital surrounded by his family. He had a rare genetic disease caused by deposits of abnormal protein – amyloid – in tissues and organs.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Martin McGuinness in 2013, weeks after he announced his decision to step down from his role as MP for Mid-Ulster.

At the time I was working for a local newspaper with a circulation of around seven – maybe even eight – thousand. It really served him very little to speak with me, however he made the time because he said he owed a lot to the people of South Derry and East Tyrone who he emphasised made it possible for him to become Deputy First Minister.

He invited me up to his office in Stormont and even though I had a strict 20 minute time slot, he continually pushed it back and made sure all my questions were answered.

He talked at length about his career, the peace process, Ian Paisley and the Queen, and at that time his hope of maintaining the powersharing government with Peter Robinson.

Unsurprisingly he said being central to the peace process negotiations was the highlight of his political life. And he acknowledged the huge significance his role played in making peace possible in the province.

“I was able to engage and work on vital negotiations that I believe have changed for the better the history of the north of Ireland and the island of Ireland forever and for good.”

Here is the interview in full (published in the Mid Ulster Mail on February 5, 2013).

 By Patricia Devlin

IT is unlikely there will ever be another MP who will enjoy a political career as colourful as that of Martin McGuinness’.

Elected in Mid-Ulster three years after the IRA ceasefire, and a year before the Good Friday Agreement, he has been at the helm of the Northern Ireland peace process for over 15 years.

He has negotiated with British Prime Ministers, gone into government with his most bitter enemy, and shook the hand of the Royal Monarch once considered a prime target for the paramilitary organisation he was Chief of Staff for.

On January 2nd this year, he signed off a letter to Chancellor George Osborne that signalled the end of an era for Mid-Ulster, and his career as MP.

“One of the most interesting elections I have ever fought was the very first election that I stood in, in Mid-Ulster. I have never forgotten it, and I never will,” he told the Mail.

“I remember travelling around every town land and trying to get to every single door, up very long lanes and canvassing to very late at night.

“Quite a percentage thought that the seat wasn’t winnable because it had been tried before, and because there had been narrow losses in the past, in other occasions there were very substantial losses because of the divided vote.

“And I had a real engagement with the people of the constituency, I told them, that I believe there was a change in political situation, that the IRA ceasefire in 1994 had changed the ball game completely, that I also believed there would be a change of government in London, that there would be a new government led by Tony Blair and Mo Mowlam.

“That in my view because we had done work with the Labour party that would represent a real opportunity to get a peace agreement and to the forefront of my mind was to be very, very conscious that all of the people of Mid-Ulster, no matter what their political persuasion or religious beliefs, had suffered from the conflict.

“And I was making a pledge to them that I was determined to bring that conflict to an end and so the people came out in huge numbers and I, against all the odds, won the seat by 1800 votes,” he said.

To Mid-Ulster and beyond

Taking the seat from the DUP’s Willie McCrea was seen as a huge victory for nationalists and republicans in the constituency, so much so that Mr McGuinness’’ election as seen as a catalyst for Sinn Fein sowing it’s roots across the province.

“It was clear to me from speaking to the people of Mid-Ulster that they were very tuned in.

“They were very political and they were very willing to seize the opportunity to make their contribution to the peace process, albeit it being a peace process in it’s very early stages.

“And I think that had a very dramatic impact on the peace process, it certainly had a dramatic impact on constituencies like West Tyrone where Pat Dorrity later emerged as MP, Fermanagh and South Tyrone where Michelle Gildernew emerged as the MP and Newry and Armagh where Conor Murphy emerged as the MP.

“I give credit to the people of Mid-Ulster for having accomplished that and by voting for me, then made it possible for people in other constituencies to recognise that voting for Sinn Fein could bring change, not just in terms of recognising the constituency but in terms of bringing peace which I believed at that time was a passionate objective of mine, but I also believed that it was passionate desire of the people of Mid-Ulster.”

Highlights

The Deputy First Minister says he is in no doubt at what the highlight of his time in Mid-Ulster has been.

“It has to be the success of the peace process,” he said.

“The peace process is considered as the most successful peace process in the world today and because I was elected by the people of Mid-Ulster as the MP, in 1997, within a month of that I led a Sinn Fein delegation to South Africa with other parties, Peter Robinson led the DUP delegation, David Trimble led the Ulster Unionists and Mark Durkan led the SDLP, where we met with Nelson Mandela and learned many important lessons about peace negotiations.

“I was then obviously entrusted by the party to be the chief negotiator in the Good Friday negotiations and obviously it was because the people of Mid-Ulster put me in such a prominent political position that I was able to engage and work on vital negotiations that I believe have changed for the better the history of the north of Ireland and the island of Ireland forever and for good.”

Ian Paisley

The challenges? The building of those personal, political relationships that have dominated the headlines since the powersharing agreement in 2007.

“Of course the first meeting between Ian Paisley was historically of huge importance, whenever it was certain that he and I were going to be First and Deputy First Minister.

“He said a very significant thing, which gave me an insight into Ian Paisley, he said ‘you know Martin, we can rule ourselves, we don’t need these people coming over from England, telling us what to do,’ and I immediately said to myself, ‘well that’s common ground that you and I can stand on’.

“So for a year I had a very good working relationship with Ian Paisley, albeit he was coming to the end of his time as leader of the DUP and First Minister, and of course people then described us as the ‘Chuckle Brothers’, christened that by a member of the Ulster Unionist party who thought it would demean us, in fact people liked it.”

The Queen

One of the most defining moments of those personal relationships happened in June 2012, just weeks after Martin McGuinness outlined his intention to step down from his MP role.

He says even at the height of his powersharing role with Ian Paisley, shaking the hand of Queen Elizabeth never entered his mind.

“Back in those days I never contemplated even taking a decision on shaking Queen Elizabeth’s hand, but when I did that, I took a very conscious decision to do it as an act of friendship to those who had an allegiance to her In the north of Ireland.

“I think that recognising that things are constantly changing and showing unionists what a United Ireland, or a reunified Ireland would look like I think it is important that we continue to make gestures that make people feel comfortable that moving forward in a shared way, particularly trying to develop an all island economy, is making economic sense for us both north and south.”

The future

Although standing down from Mid-Ulster as an MP, the Deputy First Minister says he will not be standing down from the constituency.

“Some people had that false impression,” he says. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

“I will be as proud and honoured to continue on as a humble MLA for Mid-Ulster and as Deputy First Minister because I am very committed to the constituency and very committed to the people of South Derry and East Tyrone who have supported me through thick and thin over the course of the last 15 years.

“I have a great affinity with the people of South Derry and East Tyrone and I am very conscious that I would not be Deputy First Minister or even as many people describe it, joint First Minister, on the basis of equality with Peter Robinson, had it not been for the support I received from Mid-Ulster.”

‘I was told that if I’d been raped, I’d get over it – but I’d never get over terminating my pregnancy’

patricia-anti-abortion

Patricia Devlin and an anti-abortion protester outside Belfast’s Marie Stopes Clinic. PIC: Sunday Life

Last year I carried out an investigation into how anti-abortion protesters were confronting women using Belfast’s Marie Stopes Centre. The article received a lot of feedback, with most shocked at the tactics used by some’pro-life’ campaigners. Following this month’s High Court case involving one activist challenging a harassment notice served on her by the PSNI, I thought I’d republish the piece, which appeared in Sunday Life, again.

A link to the camera footage is available at the bottom of the article.

Followed down the street and told my unborn baby had been ‘christened’ James, an anti-abortion protester pulls out a tiny plastic foetus doll from her pocket and tells me: “This is what your baby looks like”.

I was told I would become suicidal, that I would regret the decision for the rest of my life.

I was also told that if I’d been raped, I’d get over it – but I’d never get over terminating my pregnancy.

I’m not pregnant, but the vast majority of women who use Marie Stopes Centre in Belfast are.

They include women who have serious mental health issues,women who have fallen pregnant through rape or incest. And then there are the women who have a very much-wanted pregnancy, but who are faced with the devastating diagnosis of severe foetal abnormality.

I went undercover to experience what they do every time they visit the Great Victoria Street clinic.

And each time I went there I was chased down the street, had graphic images of dead foetuses pushed into my hands and was offered ‘help’ from pro-life group Precious Life.

My last visit laid bare some of the tactics used by anti-abortion activists.

I’d been clocked by the protesters, who have a permanent presence outside, entering the building just after 2pm. Two women stood outside with ‘abortion is murder’ posters, while another stood at the door with a clipboard.

When I left 40 minutes later, there were two women waiting at the door.

“You are going to be a fantastic mother, please don’t be afraid, we can help you with anything you need,” one said, as she walked after me.

“No matter how difficult it is you’ll never be able to undo this, this is going to be the happiest moment of your life.”

After declining her help, the protester, said: “Were you raped? We can help you, we can give you counselling, don’t be worrying.

“Whoever done that to you is going to be doing it to you all over again, because you are not going to get over the abortion, you will be able to get over the rape.

“And the beautiful love of your baby will help you do that, please take our information, please let us help you.”

I declined, once again, but it didn’t put this activist off. In fact, it made her worse.

“We’ve called your baby James, we’ve called him James,” she said.

“You can’t bring your baby back darling, you will go through a much harder time than this.

“All this is us reaching out to you, we want to help you.

“I love you, I know your pain. We’ve been through this before.”

Directing me to Precious Life’s new offices – a stone’s throw from the Marie Stopes Centre – I was told I could be taken there now, and given ‘help’.

“Those people up there (Marie Stopes) don’t care about you, all they want is your money. You can never bring your baby back.

“I had a girl in my house and she was so distraught that we were frightened for her taking her own life, and she said she wanted to take her own life, because she wanted her baby back, and we couldn’t do that for her.

“We offered her help and support after, but she said you can’t help me, all I want is my baby back.

“I have a counsellor that is down here and can speak to you now, and she can offer you every support, that you need mentally.”

By this stage, I’d been trying to shake-off this protester for five minutes. I’d attempted to cross the road using the traffic lights, I’d walked up and down the same stretch of footpath twice.

As this was all happening two PSNI officers were walking up and down the street.

The PSNI now keep a regular watch on the centre, following the high-profile conviction of Precious Life organiser Bernadette Smyth for harassment (later overturned on appeal) against the centre’s director.

The officers watched this woman follow me from the doors of the centre, as I tried to cross the street to get away, and as I continually declined her ‘help’. They did not intervene, but they did ask our photographer why he was taking pictures in the area.

Then, in a parting shot, the protester reached into her pocket and pulled out a tiny plastic foetus doll.

“This is what your baby looks like,” she said. “Arms and legs and fingers and toes, its heart is beating – from 21 days, and you are actually going to be killing a human being, a baby. Your baby.”

I finally escaped her attentions, safe in the knowledge that I would not have to run the gauntlet again.

But many women – some desperate for help – don’t believe they have any choice.

You can watch the video here.