Northern Ireland news

Man accused of attempted sex attack claims he was 'out jogging' at the time

Laganside Court in Belfast

A MAN accused of following a woman to a car park in a bid to carry out a sex attack claims he was out jogging at the time, the High Court heard yesterday.

Prosecutors said the alleged victim managed to struggle free and escape after being grabbed and told to be quiet in Bangor, Co Down.

Thomas Clarke (24) with a hostel address at Central Avenue in the town, faces charges of attempted kidnapping, common assault and attempted sexual assault over the incident on October 10 last year.

Refusing bail, Mr Justice McAlinden said: "I cannot think of anything more terrifying than to be walking home to a car park at night and being attacked by an unknown male."

He was told the woman heard quickening footsteps behind her as she approached her car on Dufferin Avenue.

According to Crown lawyer Conor Maguire she was grabbed from behind and ushered towards hedges in a dark corner of the car park, but managed to turn around and see it was the same man she had just passed on the street.

"Whilst the male had his arms around the injured party she said he was repeatedly telling her not to say a word, and to be quiet," Mr Maguire continued.

"She said she struggled and was able to slip her body out of her coat and run away."

The man allegedly chased after her before fleeing when she began screaming for help.

"She informed police that she thought she was going to be raped, and she has been left traumatised by the incident," prosecution counsel added.

Clarke was arrested at his accommodation, with clothing allegedly matching that worn by the man found in his bedroom.

The court heard staff at the hostel confirmed he was out at the time of the alleged incident, returning in a "breathless state".

During interviews he denied any involvement in the attack.

"The applicant also said he had decided to take up jogging and that was where he was at the time he was out of the hostel," Mr Maguire said.

The barrister also contended that a mixed profile obtained from the woman's jacket could potentially yield a DNA link to Clarke.

It was confirmed, however, that the accused was not picked out during an identification process.

Defence lawyer Conan Rea described the evidence as a "mixed bag".

He argued that Clarke should be released due to delays in the case.

But denying bail, Mr Justice McAlinden added: "Offending of this nature is at the most serious end of the scale."

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