Cork residents ‘living in fear’ after killer’s return

THERE is a “sense of extreme anxiety” in the Cork suburb of Douglas with the return to the area of convicted killer and attempted rapist, Conor Downey, according to community organisations.

Gardaí have been contacted by local politicians, householders and community groups all demanding to know what can be done to remove him from the area.

It is understood that a text campaign has been taking place with people being urged to pass on texts warning others of Downey’s presence and asking them to make their displeasure known to gardaí.

Emails have also been circulating in Cork about a supposed attempt to cajole a woman into a car in Douglas after her tyres were slashed. Gardaí say this incident is not linked to Downey.

Local politicians have praised residents for not targeting Downey’s house, which is in the heart of Douglas village. It is understood that Downey is living alone. His parents are dead.

Several well-known locals were willing to talk about local fears — but none would have their names published. They said “it’s the number one subject topic in Douglas”.

One man said: “There are people who normally just salute me who are now stopping me to talk about this. Everyone sees it as a very serious problem. There are girls working in local shops who are terrified to be on their own in the shop.

“We don’t know what the solution is. Is it tagging or what? But we do know that none of us want him here. You also have to ask how many sex offenders there are in any town in Ireland? We found out though the press but what about all the others?”

Fine Gael councillor Laura McGonigle said she understood people’s fears but they “need to have faith in the local gardaí”. She said they have a monitoring role in such situations under criminal justice legislation.

“There are provisions under the Criminal Justice Act for the supervision of such people post-release. People must try and not get hysterical. People should just continue to take normal precautions like telling people where they are going, ringing them when they reach their destination, not walking alone in badly lit, dangerous areas, etc.”

Another well-known figure in the community also urged people “not to get too hyped about this”, but admitted later he was now collecting his daughter from work as it is dark when she finishes up. “I would get worried that people are getting too hyped with women living nearby saying they can’t sleep at night, but I am not the only father collecting their daughters from work now. The attitude is that we have to do all that we can to ensure that there isn’t another victim around here. There isn’t a woman in this suburb who doesn’t feel threatened.”

Downey was jailed in 1993 for manslaughter in London after he confessed to killing a 26-year-old woman in 1988. He said he strangled her after she withdrew consent when they were having sex. His victim’s limbs were recovered but her torso was never found.

Downey was imprisoned in 2004 for an attack on a Cork nurse. He broke into her house, attempted to rape her and then viciously beat her. In that case, gardaí had testified the Cork woman was so badly beaten “they thought she was wearing a Halloween mask”.

He was jailed for 12 years for the attack on the nurse, but was released recently with remission.

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