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struggle Manhunt underway as Kilkenny girl (17) attacked while walking in 'attempted abduction'

Officers have established no motive for the attack and believe that it was 'random' as the victim does not know her assailant

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Gardai pictured at a scene of an assault on a young woman while out walking near Johnstown Co. Kilkenny. Photo: Dylan Vaughan

Gardai pictured at a scene of an assault on a young woman while out walking near Johnstown Co. Kilkenny. Photo: Dylan Vaughan

Gardai pictured at a scene of an assault on a young woman while out walking near Johnstown Co. Kilkenny. Photo: Dylan Vaughan

A Garda manhunt is under way after a teenage girl was attacked while out walking in rural Kilkenny, in what gardaí believe may have been an attempted abduction.

The 17-year-old girl was out walking in the Johnstown area around noon when a man carrying a sharp implement, possibly a scissors, grabbed her.

The teenager fought off her attacker and after a “brief struggle” managed to make her way home after the traumatic incident and raise the alarm. She required hospital treatment after the assault but is now recovering at home.

Officers have established no motive for the attack and believe that it was “random” as the victim does not know her assailant.

One line in the investigation is that the incident may have been an attempted abduction.

Last night, a senior source said gardaí are confident in solving the case.

The man is believed to be in his forties, was wearing dark clothing and spoke with an Irish accent. The attack took place in a rural laneway, close to the family home, outside the village of Johnstown.

Family and friends gathered at the family home last night to support the victim. Her father told the Sunday World that she is recovering after the ordeal.

The incident in Kilkenny comes just two weeks after the killing of teacher Ashling Murphy shocked the country.

The Offaly schoolteacher was attacked while out running on the Grand Canal at Cappincur in Tullamore.

“It’s the talk of the town,” one local man who works in the Spar shop just down the road from the victim’s home and the laneway where the shocking incident occurred told the Irish Independent.

“People are worried about walking around now,” he said.

The shop worker said the 17-year-old victim was out for a walk just metres from her home and was wearing ear phones when a man came up from behind her.

Fortunately she was able to fend off the attacker.

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He described the victim as a lovely girl.

“She’s a very kind-hearted person, she wouldn’t put a step wrong,” he said.

He said the local community is just relieved that she is okay.

Mayor of Kilkenny Andrew McGuinness said it is “deeply disturbing that a young girl was attacked by a strange man while she was exercising”.

He added: “We are shocked in Kilkenny, particularly in Johnstown where the incident occurred. I can’t imagine how devastated and traumatised the young girl and her family are.

“I hope this individual is caught and brought to justice. I want to appeal to everyone who may have been in the area and may have seen something suspicious to report it to gardaí immediately.”

The Johnstown community Facebook page posted a message yesterday evening which said, “please take care and be vigilant”.

The community group added that gardaí are looking for a man who is approximately 5 foot 10 inches in height, with brown hair, blue eyes and who was wearing dark clothing when he was last seen in the Urlingford-Johnstown-Gathabawn area.

Meanwhile, tweeting in response to the incident, Junior Special Education Minister Josepha Madigan said: “Enough is enough.”

A large Garda presence remained at the scene yesterday and a number of searches involving the garda helicopter were ongoing in the locality.

A Garda spokesman said in a statement: “Gardaí in Kilkenny are investigating the circumstances of an incident between a teenage girl and an unknown male which took place near Johnstown, Co Kilkenny today shortly after 12 midday.

“The girl was approached by the male and assaulted before the man left the scene.

“The teenage girl was taken to St Luke’s General Hospital Kilkenny and treated for shock and a physical injury (non-life threatening). Investigating Gardaí have carried out an initial interview with the girl.

“The male is best described, at this time, as a white male in his 40s with an Irish accent.

“Gardaí continue to carry out enquiries and recover CCTV from the area.

Gardaí are appealing for any person travelling on the R639 between Johnstown and the Gallops (a minor road also known locally as Cullinanes Lane), Ballyspellan between 11am and 12.15pm, particularly any person with any video footage – dashcam or other recording device – to contact gardaí at Kilkenny at 056 7775000, the Garda Confidential Line 1800 666 111 or any Garda Station.

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