GARDAI fear a sex attacker who subjected an elderly woman walking home alone from bingo to a terrifying assault may have struck before.
Veteran gardai admitted they were deeply shocked by the level of violence and cruelty the 61-year-old woman was subjected to when she was attacked as she passed through a residential area of Charleville on the Cork-Limerick border last Sunday night.
Such was the level of violence used during the assault -- which lasted for up to 20 minutes -- that officers fear it may not have been the young man's first attack.
"This is one of the worst incidents of its kind ever to have occurred in this area," one garda said.
"We are now appealing to the public to help us bring this culprit to justice," he told the Herald.
The woman was ambushed by the man in his 20s along a dark street in Charleville known locally as the Turrets.
The woman was walking home at around 10.30pm on Sunday, after attending bingo in Charleville Community Centre, when she was attacked from behind near a darkened gateway.
Her attacker struck her in the head -- possibly using a wooden club or heavy implement handle.
The stunned woman was then dragged up the unlit driveway of a local house.
Despite her pleas, the man subjected the woman to a serious sexual assault, which detectives fear may have lasted for 20 minutes or more.
During the attack the woman was repeatedly beaten about the head and threatened with further violence if she tried to scream.
The attacker then fled the area on foot.
The traumatised woman was eventually able to stagger out on to the roadway and flag down a passing motorist.
The man brought the distraught woman -- who was bleeding profusely from a head injury -- to Charleville garda station where the alarm was raised shortly before 11.30pm.
Detectives immediately raced to the scene and began a search for the attacker.
While her injuries are not said to be life-threatening, the woman was left deeply traumatised by her ordeal.
The attacker is described as being in his 20s, of medium build, standing between 5ft 6in and 5ft 8in in height and was wearing dark jeans and a grey coloured hoodie-type top at the time.
The man spoke with an Irish accent and was clean shaven.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Charleville gardai at 063 81222.