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LOOK OF EVIL Woman who stopped serial sex attacker Slawomir Gierlowski says she was failed by system

Brave Ruth Maxwell fought off Gierlowski and helped track him

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Ruth Maxwell now demands support for other victims but denies that she is a hero

Ruth Maxwell now demands support for other victims but denies that she is a hero

Ruth Maxwell now demands support for other victims but denies that she is a hero

The woman who stopped serial sex attacker Slawomir Gierlowski's reign of terror in Dublin says she has no doubt but that 'he was escalating to become a serial killer'.

Ruth Maxwell, who had a hunting knife held to her throat by the Polish roofer before he severed three tendons in her hand as she fought him off, spoke out this week after he failed in his appeal against an 18-year sentence for attacking her and two other women.

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday World, Ruth today:

  • Reveals her belief that Gierlowski would have slit her throat if she hadn't grabbed the blade of his hunting knife;
  • Calls for victims to be assigned legal representation as soon as the criminal process begins;
  • Hits out at the lack of services for victims in this country in the aftermath of an attack like the one she was subjected to;
  • And warns she would not allow her own daughter, if attacked, to go through the same criminal process she did without legal representation of her own, as she felt "re-victimised and re-traumatised" by "our offender biased system".

Ruth, who shrugs off labels like 'hero', is battling on multiple fronts at grassroots level and behind the scenes with other survivors to ensure future victims are better served.

And although she is furious at the way she was treated, including with how the HSE initially declined to provide her with ­counselling on the basis it was not financially viable, she says she would still encourage other women to speak out, as only through words and action can the system be forced to change.

Prior to attacking Ruth in 2016, ­Gierlowski attacked two other women in 2011 and 2015, at locations around ­Clondalkin in south Dublin.

The two earlier violent attacks involved sexual assaults and they took place late at night as the women walked home after a night out.

In the last attack, carried out at 6.40am on May 15, 2016 as Ruth was walking to the Luas to go to work, Gierlowski put a hunting knife to her throat as he made to drag her back to his van, where he had cable-ties and duct-tape waiting.

Ruth grabbed the blade to stop that ­happening, causing the knife to cut tendons in three of her fingers.

She managed to get out from under the knife and began screaming and he ran off.

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Slawomir Gierlowki

Slawomir Gierlowki

Slawomir Gierlowki

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Crucially, Ruth managed to get a look at the attacker's van - and by using this ­description, detectives were later able to use CCTV cameras to track him to the road he lived on.

Locals also confirmed to gardaí they had seen the van lurking in the area on many previous occasions.

After his arrest, gardaí matched his DNA to blood and semen samples taken from the two earlier crime scenes.

Tests on blood traces on a jacket seized by gardaí from his bedroom in June 2016 revealed it was Ruth's blood.

"The look of evil… it's not what you would expect evil to look like," Ruth told the Sunday World.

"It's not like what you see in the movies.

"He looked like a regular person and even had a degree of handsomeness about him. But he was escalating to be a serial killer.

"And I had no doubt in my mind, if I hadn't grabbed the knife with my hand that morning, he was going to slit my throat."

Ruth was infuriated at Gierlowski's claims before the Court of Criminal ­Appeal that the sentence of 11 years handed down to him for falsely imprisoning her was "unduly severe".

"To hear someone say, so publicly, that the sentence was somewhat excessive was deflating," Ruth told the Sunday World.

"For me, the false imprisonment was the initial moment of his putting his arms around me as he held the knife to my throat.

"That was the moment for me that the PTSD came from.

"That was the moment that has left me with fear in every aspect of my everyday life," she said.

"Everything that followed that moment was fight or flight.

"Grabbing the knife and pulling it away from my throat, that was me fighting back." Asked about the physical injuries she has been left with; Ruth says she still can't use her hand.

"The blade of the knife severed the tendons in three of my fingers and even though I've had multiple surgeries… my hand doesn't work properly at all.

"The things people take for granted: going to the toilet; brushing your teeth; tying your shoelaces, I've had to relearn how to do for myself.

"I can't close buttons on a shirt, I can't wear jewellery because I can't close the clasps. Even looking after my grandchildren, I couldn't change nappies, I couldn't dry their hair."

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Ruth talks to the Sunday World

Ruth talks to the Sunday World

Ruth talks to the Sunday World

Ruth says she believes that when ­Gierlowski's legal team sought a ­reduction in his sentence before the Court of Appeal, she should have been given the opportunity to address the court through a second ­victim impact statement - as is now the case with victims when criminals go before the Parole Board.

And she also feels that victims should be represented legally right throughout the criminal process.

"From the moment the criminal process starts, the offender is represented by a solicitor and barristers," she said.

"But the victim has none of that… you are only a witness, even though it is personal to you and it has happened to you.

"You're just on the outside looking in and you are called when you are needed.

"Your voice is never heard during the trial," she said.

"And the appeal court should hear from the victim as well.

"The option should be given for a second victim impact statement to be made so the court can hear about the long- term impact on the victim of a case like this," she pointed out.

Speaking of how badly let down she felt by the Department of Justice and the HSE in the aftermath of the case, Ruth described the lack of services made available to her as shocking.

"The HSE refused to give me counselling because it wasn't financially viable for them.

"My response to that was that they were having a laugh… and I appealed that ­decision and I got seven sessions.

"I feel that there should have been a proper plan in place for all the victims involved in this case.

"I felt the Department of Justice should have organised for multi-disciplinary services to be made available to all of us for the rest of our lives if we wanted.

"At the least, a trauma team should have been put in place immediately by the ­Department of Justice for all the victims when he was caught and right up to the appeal case.

"That should be a given in a case like this," she explained.

"If it was my daughter, I would not allow her to go through the process that I did without legal representation of her own right from the beginning.

"I wouldn't be a responsible parent if I put her into that kind of situation where she was going to be re-victimised, re-traumatised and treated with contempt and hostility.

"And the onus and responsibility and all of the blame for that goes on the Department of Justice and the Government.

"Yet I do encourage people to speak out because it does help, and it is the only way we can change this.

"We need a Victim's Rights Commissioner to oversee all of these supports and services to ensure they are offered to all victims so that no-one falls through the cracks."

Asked how it makes her feel that she was the one who finally brought Gierlowski's sickening crimes to a halt, through her identification of the van, Ruth said, even today her feelings are "bittersweet".

"It's a cold comfort in a sense," she said.

"I know he won't be able go on to do this to any other women because of what happened with me.

"The domino effect was that there would be no more victims.

"But then obviously I have to deal with my own injuries for the rest of my life.

"Sometimes, I get the 'oh, you're a hero' but no, I don't feel like a hero.

"I feel like I made a difference, but I'm not a hero.

"I made a difference and that's enough."

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