GAA player falsely accused of rape pleads with gang to lift death threat
THE FAMILY of a talented GAA footballer falsely accused by the New IRA of rape have pleaded with the terror gang to lift its death threat against him.
Aidan Woods (20) is now living in Australia after being warned that he faces execution by the dissident group.
But he is due to return to his Tyrone home in April when his visa expires, something that has forced his frightened mother and brother to go public about the serious threat against him.
They revealed how popular Aidan, who won major awards while playing for Pomeroy Plunketts GAA, was wrongly accused of raping the daughter of a New IRA member last November.
And despite appeals to prominent local dissidents, the death threat against him remains.
"Aidan slept with the daughter of a New IRA member during an all-night party back in November," explained his brother Colm Woods.
"He had been out in Omagh that night and only arrived at the party late. It was almost eight weeks later that the woman claimed she had been raped, although she didn't go to the PSNI or any counselling or crisis group, she went to the New IRA.
"The next thing you know we have two men calling to the house telling us Aidan is under threat from the republican movement and that he had better 'stay away or he will suffer the consequences'."
Frightened for his safety, Aidan fled to New York to stay with family, but he returned home in January to attend the funeral of Pomeroy Plunketts GAA club-mate Christopher Colhoun, who died of a sudden illness.
During the wake he was again threatened by the New IRA, with a member of the terror gang later ringing his mother Jane Woods to say her son would be shot dead. The mum-of-four told Sunday Life: "The caller asked my name and said, 'This is the IRA. Tell Aidan to get out before the night is over or he will be assassinated'.
"He then said, 'I'm f*****g telling you, he'll be in a hole'."
Within days Aidan had left Tyrone for Australia having been granted a three-month holiday visa.
But that expires in April and he faces the daunting prospect of being made to return home to face a New IRA death threat over a false rape claim.
The Woods family, who are hugely respected throughout east Tyrone, are taking Aidan's intimidation extremely seriously.
They are only too aware that the New IRA murdered father-of-four Michael McGibbon (33) in north Belfast two years ago after he was accused of making a sexual comment about a dissident republican's daughter.
In their son's case he has been wrongly named as raping the daughter of a New IRA member - a claim they know carries a death sentence.
Aidan's older brother Colm added: "When all this started I was really intimidated, but now Aidan's away in Australia it's been better. The problem is that he's back in April and all this will start over again. It's nothing but a smear campaign.
"While Aidan's been away the same New IRA people accusing him of rape have said he's a drug dealer who has sexually assaulted three other women.
"It's madness, ask anyone in Pomeroy and further afield and they'll tell you Aidan is a good fella who lives for his football."
The Woods family have called on anyone with influence within the New IRA to have the death threats against Aidan lifted, but so far their pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
Colm Woods says the intimidation of his brother has "disgusted" the good people of Pomeroy who are standing firmly behind his family. He explained: "People are saying to me all the time that what is happening to Aidan is wrong. They're as disgusted about this as we are, the whole town just wants the New IRA off its back. It's got to the stage now that the community is talking about having a protest at the front door of the New IRA member who has accused Aidan in the wrong. That's how strongly people feel about it."
Mid Ulster Sinn Fein MP Francie Molloy has added his voice to those backing Aidan Woods, and visited the family in their Pomeroy home to offer his support.
He said: "There is no place in society for this type of intimidation. The people making the death threats against Aidan Woods should lift them immediately."