Gardai warn against vigilante action in hunt for Dublin sex attacker

Gardai meet the public in Shankill this evening
Gardai meet the public in Shankill this evening

Gardai in Shankill have urged people not to take the law into their own hands following a spate of alleged sexual assaults in the area.

Concerned residents in Shankill met in a car park to discuss three reported assaults on women in the area since December.

At least three women of varying ages have reported being assaulted near the local Dart Station.

However, speakers at tonight's meeting warned against vigilantism as locals expressed frustration over a perceived lack of Garda presence.

Inspector James Murphy told those at the meeting that four assaults had been reported to gardai in the area since 2 December.

The first on December 2, 2015 took place close to the Dart Station. The second occured on January 3, 2016, near the entrance of the Hollypatk Housing Estate.

Two further assaults were reported on February 9 and 10, on Quinn's Road and Military Road respectively.

Meanwhile, two suspicious approaches in the area were also reported on January 20 and February 7.

Inspector Murphy said gardai were following "over 70 lines of inquiry" but added they would not release a description of the perpetrator at this stage.

He also warned against vigilantism.

"We don't want you taking this on your own bat," he told the crowd of around 40 people.

"We understand your concerns but you have to leave this investigation to us."

"But as always we need your help and assistance with anything you think could help us."

Sergeant James Malone, Crime prevention officer for Dun Laoghaire said: "Social media is going crazy at the moment."

"This is an ongoing investigation and we have to be really careful," he continued, adding that people bring incorrectly named as suspects could cause problems in future.

The meeting came a day after around 100 people protested outside Shankill Garda Station about a perceived lack of Garda presence following the attacks.

It was hoped the event would take place in the Shanganagh Park House Community Centre. However, organisers said the community centre management said they did not have room to accommodate them.

Last night, some 100 protesters besieged a south-Dublin garda station following a series of attacks on young women.

The protest came after it emerged that a teenage girl was attacked on Tuesday night in Shankill.

Garda made another appeal this morning and said the incidents occurred during the hours of darkness from 4.30pm to 10pm.

Garda say a lone man approached a woman and and assault took place.

The first attack since December was reported by the victim - a woman in her 40s who was targeted by an attacker close to Shankill Dart Station on December 4.

On January 3, a young woman in her 20s wrote in a Facebook post that a man, aged in his 40s, attempted to drag her into a secluded wooded area close to the Dart station.

She managed to escape and reported the incident to gardai.

Around 100 people took part in the protest outside the garda station to air their frustration at the garda investigation.

At least 20 people occupied the reception area for 20 minutes.

The group rallied together following news of the latest attack, which occurred on Tuesday evening.

A young woman - believed to be a schoolgirl - was attacked close to Shankill Dart Station.

The woman was followed as she walked on Quinn's Road near the Shanganagh Grove junction in Shankill at about 8.30pm.

It is understood that she was grabbed and groped but managed to get away from her assailant.

A description of the man has been given to gardai but has not yet been released to the public.

Detectives were making house-to-house enquiries on Quinn's Road yesterday afternoon.

Protesters described the attacks as "attempted rapes" and expressed their concern over the lack of security and safety in the area.

They also complained about the perceived lack of garda presence.

Local man Beppie O'Halloran (18) was one of those who protested and claimed he had witnessed a worrying attack on a young woman about two weeks ago.

"We [he and his friends] were running for the Dart and this man was standing beside this girl and he said something to her like 'look at the kids running' and then we saw him grab her and try to pull her into the woods," he told the Herald. "She got away and ran off."

A garda spokesman said that they were investigating reports of an assault yesterday evening at around 8.30pm on Quinn's Road, but they had no other reports of assault in the area.

Gardai also said 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.