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'Everyone's scared out of their minds. No one wants him out'

Normally sleepy Baltinglass is a town in fear this evening.

The possibility of convicted rapist Larry Murphy returning to his former lair is looming large. And the sense of tension is palpable in the remote Wicklow village.

From the outset, it appears as innocuous as any other town in rural Ireland. A sign as you enter boasts proudly how they won the All- Ireland Senior Football Club Championship in 1990. Another colourful poster is publicising the fact that the Baltinglass Streetfest is coming up at the end of the month featuring Crystal Swing.

There's the usual smattering of pubs, a Borza's chipper and a newsagent's with beach balls and children's hula hoops swinging outside.

There's also a hunting shop near the main street, an indirect reminder of Murphy's favourite hobby and how he knew the local terrain so well.

Although not as picturesque as nearby Blessington, the surrounding countryside is picture-postcard with rolling green hills and dark forests.

Yet try as they might to change it, Baltinglass will forever be linked with being the native place of Ireland's most notorious sex offender.

It isn't something locals care to be reminded of. When asked about Larry Murphy's release this morning, one man barked: "They should just shoot him. We want to forget about that."



Scared

Others were far more willing to talk, though few wanted to be photographed. In a town of 1,200, everyone knows each other and someone is invariably a neighbour of the Murphy family or his estranged wife, Margaret.

Business is brisk outside the shop where the mum-of-three usually works, but she has now taken an extended holiday.

"His release has scared the living daylights out of us and of course he should have served his full sentence," said one woman.

"The fact that he didn't take any counselling is even worse. I'm friends with one of the guys that came upon him that night and it affected him very badly. Hearing his side of the story and what he saw that night would terrify anyone.

The apprehension among the locals about his release isn't something manufactured from excess media coverage or hyperbole.

The women of the town are gripped with the sense that things will never be the same again, should he return even for a day.

One 15-year-old girl said: "Everyone's scared out of their minds. All my friends feel the same way, no-one wants him out. The thought of what he did to her (his victim) is just sickening. I could see him coming back here alright, as where else would he go?

"I would go out on the horse three times a day but I wouldn't go on the same routes anymore. There's so many remote forests around the area but I would be staying away from them for a while."

Baltinglass native Bridgid Keogh added: "I don't like the thought of him coming out at all. I think it's too soon and there's an awful lot of mothers and young people that are afraid that he might come back to the area.

"We're hearing all kinds of rumours about his release and where he'll be next. I would say he'll lie low for a while until it all dies down and then he'll come back. The person I feel sorry for is his wife as she's a lovely lady. It's going to be very hard on her."

None were of the opinion that having served his time, he has the right to a new life, unhindered by the horrific details of his previous conviction.

"He should have been hung, drawn and quartered for what he did," said one local.

Another young woman said she usually walks her dogs in the picturesque Baltinglass park nearby -- but won't be going alone again.

"There's loads of lovely walks around here, it's beautiful countryside but everyone's of the same opinion, that it wouldn't be safe for a while," she said."