Why wasn't our little girl's rapist locked up sooner?
Neighbour had already admitted raping boy (10) before he preyed on teen with Down syndrome, writes Alison O'Riordan
The parents of a girl with Down syndrome who was raped twice by a "supposed trusted neighbour" have said their daughter's life has been "snapped away from her" and "the little independence that she once had is now gone".
"We are now trying to wrap her up in cotton wool because you are afraid of people taking advantage of her loving nature," said her mother.
On Tuesday, June 7, the Wicklow man who raped and sexually assaulted the teenage girl following a similar serious attack on a 10-year-old boy was sentenced to six years in prison.
The 18-year-old man pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to four counts of rape, one count of threatening to kill and one count of sexual assault between June 20, 2013 and December 31, 2014.
The parents of the now 17-year-old girl who has Down syndrome are adamant that the assailant raped their daughter after he made full admissions to gardai in relation to his first victim in August 2014.
However, it was unclear on the evidence as to whether the rape of the teenage girl might have occurred earlier.
"I don't understand if someone admits to two counts of raping a 10-year-old child and threatening to kill him, why wasn't he locked up sooner? Why wasn't it highlighted that there was a child assaulted in the area, and we all could have watched out for our children.
"No one wants anyone like that around, there are little kids, only three and four years old running around outside. After this happened, I had to more or less go down and force the gardai to take him off the street - I feel very let down," said the mother of the victim who cannot be named to protect her daughter's identity.
The rapist cannot be named either in order to protect the victim.
The mother told the Sunday Independent that her daughter is one of a large family: "My children are all very close and look out for her. Despite our youngest child still being only in infant school, she is really the baby. She has the mental age, as well as the physicality, of an eight-year-old."
While the adolescent is very affectionate and caring, her parents stress she is also very naïve.
"She would say hello to everybody. She would play on her own as other kids don't have an interest in playing with her.
"She is more or less in her own little world. She loves pop music so would have her headphones on constantly," said her mum.
With a daily routine of going to the shop to buy her sweets, the teenager never ventures far from the house.
"The front door is always open so I can see her and hear her as she is always singing. The maximum amount of time she would be out on the road is half an hour," said her mum.
It was around October 2014 that the mother noticed that her daughter became temperamental and moody.
"She started lashing out at the two men in the house, my husband and our youngest boy. She even attacked a boy outside the home. She had never done anything like that before.
"When I would sit down with her to have a conversation, she would get angry, punch me and walk out of the room, it was like she changed overnight. I remember one day I was talking to the mother of the accused, and she started shouting at me to come home to the house," the mother said.
On the evening of April 5, 2015, the mother was helping her daughter take a shower when she heard her say the name of the accused and how he had kissed her.
"She told me he had put his tongue in her mouth and she felt sick and didn't like it. I knew straight away who it was," said the mother.
When the mother asked her daughter for more detail of what had happened, she pointed to her vagina.
"She said he hurt her and had put his willy there. She said she didn't like it and that he wasn't her boyfriend. I knew the minute she told me that he had been at her. She doesn't understand anything like that, she watches cartoons, she is still watching SpongeBob SquarePants,"said her mum.
While their daughter doesn't have a great concept of times and dates, her parents know the rape happened in 2014 "after" the attack on "the first boy" in the summer of 2013.
"When he (the accused) should have been in custody, he went on to interfere with our daughter," said the dad.
Their daughter was interviewed by specialist child interviewers following the assault, and she told them the accused had kissed her and taken off his trousers when she told him to stop.
"I only heard in court that he went near my daughter when she was out playing near the estate. He told her to come and follow him into a ditch where he raped her," said the mum.
Her dad says the accused's agenda entailed throwing a ball into a ditch and asking her to help him find it.
"He also told her he was her boyfriend, and to keep it a secret. There was only four days between the first and second incident," says the father.
"You don't want her doing anything now, and we can't trust anyone any more. We never thought anyone would go near a child with Down syndrome," said the parents.
The teenager has begun self-harming and recently "ripped the face off herself" during a nightmare.
"When I go to bed, it's the last thing on my mind and when I wake up, it's the first. I feel very guilty, it's more or less killing us for not being able to protect her. The family are destroyed because of what happened.
"I don't think she will ever be the same, and we will never want her doing bigger things," said the mum.
It is no coincidence in their opinion that the first victim of the accused was as vulnerable and defenceless as their offspring with developmental difficulties.
"He (the accused) went after those with something wrong with them, he knew he was able to threaten them and keep them quiet," said the mother.
The mother of the girl who was the second victim of the rapist believes her daughter was attacked after admissions were made by the accused in August 2014.
"She can't hold anything in for long, it was very fresh in her mind and she said it all in one go, not pausing for a minute. He knew he couldn't go near the first victim again, that's why he went for my daughter as he thought she would never say it, she was easy prey for him," said the mum.
However, it was not until May 2015 that the attacker was arrested and put into custody after the offences against the daughter were reported by her mother.
Twelve days ago, Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy sentenced the defendant to three years for the offences on each victim to run consecutively, which the parents feel is a "kick in the face."
"When we came out of court and family members were ringing us to see what he got, we were too embarrassed to tell them," says the mother.
The judge ordered the accused to undergo five year's post-release supervision and undertake sexual offenders' therapeutic courses.
"It was all about him and how they were going to look after him when he got out. There is no one helping us. I wanted to see him get life," they say.
The parents dismiss the fact that the accused was only 16 years of age at the time of the first offence, and 17 years of age at the time of the second offence which was committed against their daughter.
"He knew exactly what he was doing, he was not a child when he did that - he was an adult.
"He was very clever and cunning the way he preyed on our daughter," they said.