The Athlone Institute of Technology Students Union has condemned sensational reports which appeared in the national media this week in the wake of the assault of a second year student on Monday night.
Speaking to the Advertiser yesterday, president of AIT’s Students Union, Micheal Fogarty, said that a number of news publications had been speculating about the nature of the assault on the student, despite Gardai not releasing any such details.
“Some papers were saying that the girl was raped, but what the Gardai are saying is that it was a serious assault. A lot of the papers went overboard in their reporting,” said Mr Fogarty, who said he had contacted each of the newspapers concerned with a statement from the Students Union.
He added, “We are trying to do our best to reassure students but not to scare them. It is a tough time for everyone in the college. The students are all talking about it but trying their best to get on with things.”
Gardai in Athlone confirmed yesterday that their investigation is continuing into the serious assault of the 19-year-old female in the Bonavalley area in the early hours of Tuesday morning. A young male is being sought in connection with the incident, who it is believed was wearing dark clothing at the time of the attack.
So far no connection has been made between this assault and three attacks on women which occurred in the Bonavalley area between August and October last year, and for which no one was charged.
A photofit of the suspect, released last year by Gardai, has reappeared this week in a number of publications, as well as on internet websites. However Sgt John Lawless of Athlone Garda Station stressed that no photofit is yet available of the suspect in this latest attack. “We are in the early stages of the investigation and no link has yet been made between the attacks.
If we have a new photofit we will release it. We are not releasing the old photofit again; it is already in the public domain and no one has yet been caught for last year’s attacks,” he said.
Meanwhile as part of their investigation gardai in Athlone are carrying out extra patrols in the Bonavalley area, as well as speaking to taxi drivers and students to ensure they remain vigilant.
Gardai are to speak to AIT students again next week in the college to ensure they are aware of safety issues, while the Students Union are also urging students not to walk home alone after dark and to “look out for one another”. A free bus is also being made available nightly to transport students safely from the college to Karma nightclub in the centre of Athlone and back again.
Anyone with any information in relation to this week’s attack or who saw anything suspicious in the Bonavalley area should contact Athlone Gardai on (090 ) 6492609.