Wednesday 23 January 2019

Village rocked by attempted abduction of 10-year-old girl

Glentire Heights, The Ballagh, where the incident occurred
Glentire Heights, The Ballagh, where the incident occurred

Pádraig Byrne

A major garda investigation is continuing following the attempted abduction of a 10-year-old girl in The Ballagh last Monday evening at around 8.50pm.

Parents all over the county are on edge following the terrifying incident which saw a strange man attempt to grab the child who had been out playing on a green area at Glentire Heights with her friends.

Young Hazel McGrath had been out on the green, less than 100 yards from her home, when she stopped to put on her runners. Suddenly a strange man grabbed her around the waist. She struggled and managed to separate herself from him, at which point the man punched her and attempted to grab her again. She began to scream at which point the attempted abductor fled on foot across the fields, but not before threatening the child that he would 'hunt her down' and 'find her home' if she told anyone.

Hazel's mum, Sonya Fennelly-McGrath, said that it has been a terrifying ordeal for her, husband Jason, and little Hazel, and that it's every parent's worst nightmare.

'We are very, very lucky that she's okay. It's just terrifying,' she said. 'We're still in shock. Thankfully, Hazel is fine, physically at least. After she had given her statement to gardaí, we took her to the hospital. She had a slight concussion and had some x-rays, but thankfully they came back all clear.'

The baby of the family, Hazel has two older brothers and an older sister and may have learned a thing or two that aided in her escape from her assailant.

'Her two brothers did boxing at various stages and her daddy does Taekwondo, so maybe she had picked up a thing or two which helped her,' Sonya said. 'She had never seen this man before, not even around the village when we'd be out walking or anything like that.'

The relieved mother says that the local community have been great in the wake of the terrifying incident. An appeal has been made for any member of the public who may have seen the man involved to come forward. He is described as being of slim build, approximately 6ft 2, tanned skin, dark brown hair with a dark brown smeg and stubble on his face. He was wearing a plain black t-shirt and red knee length shorts with a black nike symbol and black and white nike runners. Oulart gardaí are investigating the incident and door to door enquiries were ongoing last week, along with an attempt to obtain any CCTV footage from the locality.

Sonya is now appealing for anyone with information to contact gardaí immediately.

'The guards have been very good, as has everyone in the local community here,' she said. 'Initially, I wasn't going to put anything up on social media, but a friend of mine put something up and I decided it would be good to warn parents and to ensure people are on the lookout. I'd hate to see this happen to someone else's child. We're very lucky that Hazel is safe and sound. I'd ask anyone who might have seen anything, no matter how small or trivial, to get in touch with gardaí.'

While the Facebook reaction has been overwhelmingly positive and the Co Wexford community have shown support for the McGrath family, father Jason says he was disappointed to read some accusations online that they were seeking some form of 'vigilante justice'.

'As a father who is totally committed to my family, I never thought that that level of depravity could be extended towards a 10 year old in such a small village community,' he said. 'It isn't vigilante mentality. It's a normal parental response to your child being exposed to a level of base savagery that MUST NOT be tolerated. My daughter was told that if she told anyone she would be hunted down. Scum like this must not be allowed to hide in the shadows thinking that intimidating an innocent child into hiding his obscene behaviour is going to save him. We have given the guards all assistance and appreciate their efforts and understand their limitations with respect to dealing with small amounts of available information.'

'I hope that, if those putting up these comments have children, that they can remain in the mindset that I had previously that this sort of thing only happened to other people. We're not assembling a mob, we're standing up for decent values and the protection of the innocence of our children.'

Anyone with information relating to the case, no matter how big or small, can contact Oulart Garda Station or Enniscorthy Garda Station on 053 9242580 or the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666111.

Enniscorthy Guardian