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RAPED IN THE WOODS; MAN FORCED TO LISTEN AS LOVER IS ATTACKED.

Byline: PAT FLYNN and NIALL MOONAN

A MAN was forced to listen to his lover being gang raped by five young thugs after they savagely stabbed, beat and locked him in the boot of his car.

The couple, in their 30s, had driven to a lovers' lane in a secluded wood in the early hours of yesterday morning.

But an hour after arriving at scenic Cratloe Woods in Co Clare, their secret rendezvous turned into a bloody nightmare - and Ireland's worst case of gang rape.

A vicious gang, on a spree of vandalism along the Clare and Limerick border, came across the couple by chance.

They surrounded the car like a pack of wolves, forcing the man into the boot as his girlfriend was raped by all five.

Most shocking of all was that one of the youths who attacked the terrified 35-year-old woman was just 14. Another two were aged 15, one was 17 and the oldest was a 25-year-old.

Before their barbaric attack, officers said the gang of five tried to break into a school in Cratloe after stealing a car from Limerick.

But they were disturbed and sped off in the direction of the famous woods at around 4am where they:

DRAGGED the terrified woman from the car and repeatedly raped her

BEAT her 34-year-old lover with with a golf club and stabbed him with a screwdriver

BROKE his arm and locked him in the boot of his own car as she screamed for help.

A Garda source said: "It looks like this was a completely random attack, there was an attempted break-in to a school before the couple was targeted.

"They just seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is easily one of the most horrific gang rapes ever reported to gardai and it is even more disturbing because of the ages of the youths involved.

"They stole the car in Limerick and after being disturbed at the school, they sped off to Cratloe, which is a favourite place for courting couples."

The man locked in the boot managed to call gardai from a mobile phone.

Seconds before they arrived he broke free from the boot and managed to attack one of the teenage thugs.

Inspector Tom Kennedy said two suspects were arrested at the scene while three others were detained shortly afterwards at a nearby house.

Five suspects in total were taken into custody, one of them claimed to be injured and asked to be taken to Limerick Regional Hospital.

He managed to escape but was recaptured after officers launched a major lunchtime search.

Meanwhile, the rape victim is said to be "extremely distressed" after the attack.

She has been transferred to a sexual assault treatment unit in Cork where she was examined by doctors yesterday afternoon.

The male victim was taken to Galway University Hospital for treatment on his broken arm and several stab wounds.

It is believed that the couple worked together in a Limerick city pub.

The scene of the attack at the woods on the Limerick to Ennis road was sealed off as technical experts examined the car park and the three cars there.

The couple arrived in separate vehicles while the third car, stolen in Limerick, is believed to have been used by the gang.

Golf clubs were scattered around the car park, some of which were packed into evidence bags by members of the Ennis-based Crime Scene Investigation Unit and taken away for examination.

One of the suspects was the target of a petrol bomb attack in Limerick two years ago.

Last night, one man and four youths were charged with rape, false imprisonment and robbery at a special sitting of Ennis District Court.

All five were remanded in custody until January 28.

CAPTION(S):

SCENE OF HORROR: Garda Chief Superintendent Liam Quinn arrives at the remote Cratloe Woods in Co Clare yesterday where the horrific rape attack took place on a couple while, inset, forensic experts examine one of three vehicles; PAINSTAKING: Gardai remove evidence; GRIM: Garda at scene yesterday
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 24, 2004
Words:677
Previous Article:SICK PHONE PERVERT MAY NOT BE CAUGHT.
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