Child attacked weeks before attempted sexual assaults
A father has told how his young daughter was approached and attacked by an older male in Shankill only weeks before a spate of attempted sexual assaults.
Residents in the south Dublin suburb have been living in fear for the past two months as gardai continue to investigate a number of complaints relating to suspicious approaches and attempted sexual assaults.
Garda patrols have been stepped up in the wake of the reported incidents as local people continue to voice their concerns.
One local man, who did not want to be named, told the Herald that his young daughter was approached by a man who tried to grab her only weeks before the first complaint of an attempted sexual assault was made to gardai.
"A man attacked my 12-year-old daughter just before the attacks started," he said.
"It wasn't of a sexual nature, but it has still left her traumatised and she can't even go out and play with her friends any more.
"Since the most recent attacks I've also began collecting my older daughter, who works in town, from the Dart station. I just don't feel it's safe in the area at the moment."
As the car park fills up every evening with people collecting their loved ones from Shankill Dart station, a marked garda vehicle patrols the area.
Locals said the presence of a helicopter from the Garda Air Support Unit has helped ease some fears. However, other people believe that not enough is being done to catch the perpetrator and prevent further incidents.
Megan Devlin (22), from the Shankill area, said she walks to the Dart station to collect her brother's partner.
"It's basically safety in numbers. I bring the dog with me so I'm fine, and my brother isn't comfortable with his partner walking home alone," she said.
"You can see the number of cars here waiting to collect people. They are genuinely afraid.
"I haven't noticed a major increase in the number of gardai in the area. It doesn't seem to have changed that much, but there may be undercover units her, I couldn't tell."
Sources have said gardai are being cautious about linking all of the incidents to one serial offender, with apparent discrepancies between several of the descriptions given by victims.
"It is important that these incidents aren't linked to the same person without a thorough investigation, as this could create the perception that there is a serial attacker on the loose," said a source.
"However, gardai are taking the incidents seriously and investigations are continuing."
The first incident, on December 2, happened close to Shankill Dart Station.
The second was on January 3, near the entrance to the Holly Park housing estate.
Two further assaults were reported on February 9 and 10, on Quinn's Road and Military Road, near Killiney.
Meanwhile, two suspicious approaches in the area were also reported on January 20 and February 7.
Insp James Murphy previously said that gardai are following more than 70 lines of inquiry, and that a full-time incident room has been set up at Shankill Garda Station to deal with the attacks.