Tuesday 21 February 2017

Fear now grips leafy streets around quiet campus

The university town of Maynooth is living on its nerves after a horrifying assault on one of its own, writes Jerome Reilly

Published 27/11/2016 | 02:30

Gardaí in the Moyglare Abbey estate in Maynooth where Kym Owens was assaulted on Sunday evening. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Gardaí in the Moyglare Abbey estate in Maynooth where Kym Owens was assaulted on Sunday evening. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Last Sunday night in Maynooth an arctic blast brought a freezing fog that shrouded the town, dimmed the light coming from the street lamps below a moonless sky and kept people indoors beside the fire.

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And so as Kym Owens made the 12-minute walk to her digs in the north of the town it was both unusually quiet and much darker than normal.

It was in this almost eerie gloom that she was set upon just yards from the sanctuary of her home.

The savage, almost incomprehensible attack on the 18-year-old first- year student has left the university town unnerved and fearful.

The ferocity of the assault left the petite Monaghan teenager with a broken jaw, two fractured eye sockets and other facial and head injuries so serious that doctors immediately placed her in an induced coma.

What has added to the sense of unease is the mystery of why the brutal assault was not witnessed.

The attack happened at the entrance to the Moyglare Abbey estate where Kim has her digs.

On most Sunday nights the area is usually well populated and relatively well lit.

Moyglare Abbey is a large estate, a comfortable mix of well-maintained three, four and five-bedroom family homes. Many families take in students on a five-day-a- week basis and digs on the estate are highly prized.

It's only a three-minute walk from the top of the estate to the side entrance into the university and most householders have become accustomed to mothers and fathers from the country calling at their door in the post-Leaving Certificate days of mid-summer seeking to reserve accommodation for their sons and daughters when the college term starts in October.

To get a place to live so close to the town and the college is a godsend when student accommodation is in such short supply in the local area.

One can only imagine that Kym's family were delighted that she was staying in such a convenient and safe location as she embarked on third level studies.

The place where Kym was set upon is at the only entrance for vehicles into the series of cul-de-sacs branching off from the main road into the estate which actually backs on to the grounds of Maynooth University where Kym was just weeks into her fresher year.

Anyone returning to their home in Moyglare Abbey or visiting the estate has to pass the spot where Kym's screams alerted householders who came from their homes and found her in a barely conscious state.

On Sunday nights the area is usually well populated with pedestrians. Local residents are well used to seeing students returning to college after a weekend away, the young women pulling wheelie suitcases with their newly laundered washing and provisions for the week brought from home, the young men with rucksacks, GAA kit bags and a hurley thrown over their shoulders.

From 6pm to 10pm there is a steady cavalcade of private coaches and buses coming from all points of the west as well as Kilkenny, Donegal, Cavan, Monaghan and Carlow.

Most of these private buses stop at the entrance to the university on the Moyglare Road, just past the boys' national school and the mixed second-level community college, and throw open their luggage compartments.

Students pick up their gear and some walk on to the college campus where there is apartment accommodation.

But many head from there up to the nearby housing estates, including Moyglare Abbey where Kim was staying.

Other students using public buses or the train from Longford or Sligo or Carrick on Shannon walk through the town where there are at least three well- positioned public CCTV cameras, ostensibly used for traffic management. Most retailers and publicans in the town as well as the large Manor Mills shopping centre have also put up security cameras.

Kim got off her bus from her home town of Castleblaney in the town centre and detectives are now poring over CCTV images to see if she was followed by someone who was on the same bus or else followed from the town by her attacker.

And then there are the local pedestrians walking to and from the town and a large number of dog walkers who take a nightly ramble in the college in relatively large numbers as well as joggers and fitness walkers who use the mainly pedestrianised university grounds.

Traffic is usually consistent on the main roads, not heavy exactly but there is invariably a car or bus or a taxi on the Moyglare Road at all times and every fast-food outlet in the town now offers home deliveries. Their highly liveried vehicles are constantly in and around the Moyglare Road area. Sunday night is fast-food night in Maynooth.

It is in this context of a busy and lively area within the town limits that people in Maynooth are wondering why no one witnessed this terrible assault on a teenage girl.

Sunday Independent

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