Sunday, 20 November 2005

Victim of 'mad dogs' gang speaks of two-year ordeal

Sunday Tribune

Pauline Costello was in constant fear of all-girl gang while waiting for assault case to come to trial
Isabel Hayes
ONE of the victims of a Dublin girl gang whose members were each sentenced to two years' imprisonment last week has spoken of how she has spent the last two years looking over her shoulder while waiting for their case to come to court.

"It's just been awful, " said Pauline Costello (20) from Firhouse, Dublin, who was attacked by a group of six women on her 18th birthday. "I wish it could have come to court quicker because it's been a long two years waiting for it to come to an end."

Martina O'Connor (18) and Antoinette Geoghegan (18) were jailed for two years for assaulting and robbing Costello on 10 October, 2003, and for causing harm to Rhona Brady on 17 October, 2003, along with Jennifer Melia (26). Labelled "mad dogs" by Judge Donagh McDonagh, Costello's main attacker, O'Connor, has notched up 72 convictions in the last two years.

On the night of her 18th birthday, Costello was at a bus stop in Kilnamanagh with a friend when she was approached by O'Connor, Geoghegan and four other girls. After asking for a cigarette lighter, O'Connor told Costello she smelt like a "whore" and "would get pregnant dressed like that".

"They started shouting abuse and then chased after us, " said Costello, who was caught by her attackers and pulled to the ground. "They poured beer over me and took my bag. I went home in a state."

Costello later identified O'Connor and pressed charges against her attacker, but that has led to further trouble for her. "She saw me at a bus stop and wanted to know why I was pressing charges, " said Costello. "When I told her to leave me alone, she tried to punch me."

Earlier this year, Costello bumped into O'Connor and her friends again and sustained a burst lip and black eye. O'Connor also found out where Costello worked and started coming in looking for her. "She would ask what time I was getting off work at and warn my friends she was going to get me, " recalled Costello.

"It's been a nightmare and I'm just glad she's been put away. I'm a bit disappointed she only got two years, but I'm getting on with my life and I hope she'll leave me alone when she gets out."

Even now, Costello is still on the constant lookout for O'Connor's group of friends.

"She was never on her own when she attacked me, they are always in a group, " she said. "She probably wouldn't do it if she was on her own."

Criminal gangs of women are becoming increasingly widespread in Ireland. Last month there were a spate of robberies in the Wicklow/Kildare area that gardai believed were carried out by a group of women. Three women were questioned but later released without charge.

In 2002, a woman was attacked in Clonsilla, Dublin, by a gang of teenage girls, one of whom broke a glass bottle over her head. The victim and her partner were driven out of their home due to constant harassment by the group.

Last year, Dr Chris Luke of Cork University Hospital's accident and emergency unit claimed that gardai were becoming more afraid of gangs of violent women than men.

The hospital was dealing with a big increase in victims of female violence and "unrestrained hedonism, " he said.

"There has been a massive surge in female drunkenness, " he said, estimating the increase at 60% in recent years.

Costello now takes taxis late at night and is cautious when approached by strangers.

Despite the constant harassment at the hands of O'Connor and her group, she is glad she pressed charges.

"A lot of people have suffered at the hands of them and not done anything about it, " she said. "But I thought, no.

These people are bad news and they have been wrecking other people's lives. Something had to be done because they just don't care."
November 20, 2005

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