Tuesday 21 November 2017

Suspected serial rapist questioned after violent sex attacks on up to 12 prostitutes

EXCLUSIVE: The Romanian national has been linked to attacks in Dublin, Galway and Portlaoise

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Cathal McMahon

Cathal McMahon

A suspected serial rapist has been arrested after a garda operation in Dublin this afternoon.

The Romanian national, aged in his 40s, was being held after three sex workers alleged they were violently raped at different locations across the country.

The most recent attack was in Portlaoise approximately a week ago and two previous attacks were reported at hotels in Co Galway and Dublin on earlier dates.

The suspect was arrested in West Dublin this morning after a major national operation involving gardaí from Co Laois, the garda Sexual Assault unit and local detective units.

He is being held under section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act at Lucan garda station in connection with the Galway attack.

However gardaí and sex industry workers suspect that there are a number of other victims who are "too afraid" to come forward and report the crimes. It is believed he attacked up to 12 women.

The suspect was previously involved in the sex industry and had worked as a bouncer at a number of Irish brothels.

One theory being examined is that the suspect was tasked by others with "eliminating the competition" in the sex industry.

All of the known victims are foreign nationals working as prostitutes in Ireland.

A senior source said: "The attacks, especially the one in Galway, were particularly violent.

"This man contacted the women through a well-known website and then arranged to meet them at hotels."

It is understood that in each of the cases he threatened the women with a knife before robbing and raping them.

The source explained: "These were violent and despicable attacks. This man may have believed these women would be too afraid to come forward but thankfully they were brave enough to report the incidents to gardaí.

"Given his history as a security worker in the sex industry gardaí are investigating if he was tasked with trying to intimidate women and force them out of his patches.

"This man had shown a capacity for extreme violence and there is every chance he could have murdered one of these women."

Following the most recent attack a major gardaí were able to link it to the two previous incident. A major garda operation was put in place.

It is believed that gardai were able to make the arrest after gathering "excellent quality" CCTV of the suspect at three different locations. DNA evidence has also been obtained by investigators.

Officers have used a specialised computer system known as the Violent Crime Linkage Analysis system (Viclas) to determine if the alleged rapes are linked to one man.

Viclas was developed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in the early 1990s to compare different crimes for similarities.

Detectives were able to narrow their search to a location in West Dublin and the man was arrested shortly after leaving a property this afternoon.

He can be held for up to 24 hours.

In recent years, gardai have investigated a number of rape cases involving prostitutes including an incident at a north Dublin hotel in 2012 where two sex workers were attacked.

Sarah Benson, CEO of NGO Ruhama, said: "We are very pleased to hear that this alleged perpetrator has been arrested. We have been aware that the sex trade is and always has been a dangerous industry especially when there is organised crime is involved.

"We are very pleased that the women affected came forward and engaged with the gardai in order to get support. This incident speaks to the inherent violence of the trade."

Kate McGrew of the Sex Workers Alliance of Ireland (SWAI) said: "We commend the bravery and strength of the women who came forward to report these horrific incidents. This reporting is exceptional and we are glad we were able to connect the victims to safe and trusted individuals within the Gardai who then worked tirelessly to catch this man.

"These networks on the ground are of heightened importance during this time when our precarious industry is seeing an increase in violence and crime. We encourage any sex workers who have been victims of crime to contact us for support and info on their rights. 085 824 9305"

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