A YOUNG girl was viciously beaten and raped while she was walking to a corner shop in broad daylight.
The 13-year-old was set upon by two men as she took a short cut through two housing estates near her home.
The teenager was dragged from the path after being tripped by one of her attackers, before she was beaten and raped.
The girl's horrific ordeal took place in a laneway in Wicklow Town at around 3pm last Saturday.
A full scale garda investigation has now been launched in a bid to catch the individuals who are believed to be in their late teens and early 20s.
Gardai have issued an appeal for information and have asked anyone who may have seen anything suspicious in the area to contact them.
The traumatised girl was taken to the sexual assault unit at the Rotunda hospital in Dublin on Saturday.
She is now at home recovering from her ordeal.
Gardai are currently carrying out door-to-door enquiries at the Broadlough and Crinion Park housing estates in a bid to find the attackers.
The youngster is not believed to be a resident of either estate.
Meanwhile, the scene of the incident was technically examined by investigators.
Reacting to the news of the vicious sexual assault, one local, who lives close to the scene, told the Herald of her shock that such an incident would ever occur there.
"I'd have never thought that anything like this would happen in Wicklow," she said.
"That route is used by youngsters regularly and parents now are going to be afraid to let them out now.
"It's shocking really and my heart goes out to that poor girl and her family," she said.
Irene Winters, a local Fine Gael county councillor, told the Herald she was "in complete shock" over the incident.
"My heart goes out to that girl and I hope she gets over this and gets back to some form of normality in the future," she said. "Everyone is shocked but are fully behind the family and hope they are coping."
Winters said the incident would have a massive impact on the area.
"Not only is there a victim of the crime but there is also the fear that other parents might have over such an incident," she said. "But we are all fully supportive of the Gardai and know they are doing their job."
She added: "Any assault is horrific enough, but one with a sexual nature is terrible, I'm in complete shock over it and just hope that the girl will recover."
John Snell, a local Sinn Fein county councillor, told the Herald that the area was "sickened" by news of the incident.
"People are just so behind the Gardai and the family and are shocked that such a thing would ever happen here," he said.
"I'm stunned that such a crime would be committed in the town and especially in the middle of a Saturday afternoon."
He added: "Things like this rarely if ever happen here and people are really stunned and sickened about it. We hope whoever was responsible is caught as soon as possible."
Anyone with any information is urged to contact local gardai at Wicklow Garda Station on 0404 67107 or the Garda Confidential Line on 1800-666-111.