Terrifying ordeal | 

Woman who was raped on Tinder date hung towel on balcony to help gardaí find her

The victim screamed repeatedly in the hopes the neighbours would hear, but Feeney told her there were no neighbours to hear her
Christopher Feeney seen here entering Sligo Courthouse during his trial. Pic: Carl Brennan.

Christopher Feeney seen here entering Sligo Courthouse during his trial. Pic: Carl Brennan.

Isabel Hayes

A woman who was raped by a man she met on Tinder was rescued by gardaí after she hung a towel on his balcony, a court has heard.

Christopher Feeney (58) was found guilty of four counts of raping and sexually assaulting the woman at his home address in Millbrook, Riverside, Sligo on April 26, 2015, following a Central Criminal Court trial last September.

During the attack, described by Mr Justice David Keane as an “ordeal” that continues to “haunt” his victim, Feeney told the woman that nobody could hear her screams as she cried and begged him to stop.

Mr Justice Keane told Feeney's sentence hearing on Monday that he intends to hand down a nine year sentence. He indicated that a portion of this sentence may be suspended pending a Probation Services report. As a result, he adjourned the matter for finalisation on March 28 next year.

The court heard that after gardaí were alerted to the woman's plight, they told her to hang a towel on the balcony so they could identify which apartment she was in.

They arrived at the apartment a short time after the woman managed to do this and Feeney was arrested. He admitted sexual intercourse had taken place between himself and the woman, but claimed it was consensual.

Feeney fled the jurisdiction while gardaí were awaiting instructions from the Director of Public Prosecutions. He was arrested in the UK in 2019 and brought back to Ireland. He has been in custody since then.

Feeney pleaded not guilty to one count of rape, one count of oral rape, two counts of sexually assaulting the woman and one count of false imprisonment.

He was found guilty on all counts except for the false imprisonment charge, which the jury was unable to agree on.

A local sergeant told Leo Mulrooney BL, prosecuting, that Feeney and his victim, then aged 54, met on the dating app Tinder and arranged to meet in Sligo town. The pair went out for drinks before returning to Feeney's home in the early hours of the morning.

The woman, who is legally entitled to anonymity, told gardaí that her “heart sank” when she saw that the sleeping arrangement in Feeney's apartment was two beds pushed together. She told Feeney she wanted to get to know him first and he suggested they put pillows down the middle of the bed.

As soon as they were in bed, Feeney started trying to touch her. The woman resisted and he left the bedroom. She dozed off and woke to find him back in bed with her.

He pinned her arms back and proceeded to sexually assault and rape her.

Throughout the ordeal, which lasted for about an hour, the woman said she thought she was going to die. She screamed repeatedly in the hopes the neighbours would hear, but Feeney told her there were no neighbours to hear her.

When the woman managed to get out of the bedroom and in to the bathroom, she texted a friend saying: “Help, this is serious. Call the police.”

When gardaí phoned her shortly afterwards, the woman told them what apartment block she was in before being told to hang a towel on the balcony to help identify her location.

In a victim impact statement handed into court and read out by counsel, the woman said she has never told her family what happened to her as she is so ashamed.

“I feel such shame, even though I know it's not my shame. It's his as the perpetrator,” the woman wrote. She said she struggles with anxiety in the wake of the attack and has “dark days” where she fears she will never have a partner again.

“My constant thoughts on that terrible night were: Am I going to get out of here alive?” she said. The woman was not in court for the sentence hearing.

Eoin McGovern BL, defending, said his client has one previous conviction for drink-driving. He does not accept the verdict of the jury.

Mr Justice Keane commended the woman, who is from Northern Ireland, for giving simple and direct evidence to the jury during the trial.

“There is no doubt she has suffered considerable psychological harm,” he said.

The judge noted that Feeney has shown no remorse, made no amends and has not embarked on any rehabilitation because he continues to deny his crimes.

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