Four young men have today been convicted at the Central Criminal Court of a range of sexual offences against a 17-year-old girl in the midlands in December 2016. A fifth man had earlier pleaded guilty to rape. Here, Vivienne Traynor looks back at the young woman's testimony to the trial.


St Stephen's night 2016 started out as a typical night out for a teenage girl.

The 17-year-old remembered having leftover Christmas dinner with her family before making last-minute plans to go out with her friends. She rushed to get ready, putting a dress in the tumble dryer before getting "half ready", grabbing her make-up bag and getting a lift to her friend's house - still dressed in pyjamas. In a friend's bedroom, four young women - some in Leaving Cert year, others in college - had some drinks, put on make-up and took some Snapchats as they prepared for the night out. There was a loose arrangement to stay at that house overnight because it was close to the town and handy.

They were dropped to a pub in town around 10pm, anxious to avoid the expected St Stephen's night queues. Someone had a naggin of vodka in a handbag and they huddled in a toilet cubicle to have some. Her phone fell into the toilet. She thought it was "banjaxed" and didn't use it much afterwards that night. The screen was lighting up but wasn't working otherwise.

After the pub the friends went to a nightclub, again going early to avoid the queues. They left around 2.30am as the crowds spilled out onto the streets and into the fast food restaurants. Everyone was out that night. Friends, old and new, were catching up and reconnecting. She and one friend broke away to go to different fast food restaurants. One wanted a kebab, the other a spice bag so they arranged to meet back at a taxi office. The friend got a text message later to say she was sorted for a lift home. She replied: "With who? Text me when you get home." The rest of the girls who had started the night out together decided to go on home in a taxi.

In the time she was separated from her girlfriends, the young woman had met a close male friend who was going to another boy's house. While they chatted, one of the boys noticed a car which had been driving around the town a number of times. The windows were down and the occupants were shouting from the car "either looking for attention or looking for trouble" one witness told the court.

The woman decided against joining her male friends at a local house and instead made her way to the taxi office. She told them where she wanted to go and was expecting to be called to share a taxi but they were in short supply and when 20 minutes passed, she thought she had been forgotten about. She would have been at her friend's house in the time that had passed so she decided to walk instead.

Almost immediately, a car pulled up alongside her on the street. Someone shouted her name and she made what she described as "a stupid, snap decision" and got into the car. At first she thought it might have been "the lads coming back for me" but soon discovered she did not know the men in the car.

WARNING: This article contains graphic details

She said they told her to lie across the three young men in the back seat in case the gardaí saw they had too many in the car but soon she felt a hand up her skirt. She became flustered and upset. The front seat passenger asked if she wanted to get into the front and she did to "get away" from what was happening in the back. "I had tears in my eyes and was pushing the hands away," she said in the witness box. But as soon as she sat on the front passenger's lap he began to "fondle" her while other hands reached in from the back seat continuing to touch her. She asked to be dropped to her friend's house but said the young men were arguing about where they were going. She agreed to go to the out of town location "if it meant this would stop".

She said the men kept talking as if she wasn't there. She heard one say: "Ah lads she is good" and "we are getting it all tonight".

"It felt very suffocating, I was pushing hands away. I don't remember saying anything. I kept pushing the hands away. It felt very constraining. I went from the front to the back of the car, I felt like I teleported, I've no idea how."

When the car stopped at a remote location, the woman said she was in the front seat again and everyone else got out of the car. One of the men came back to the car with his pants down. He didn't speak as he proceeded to rape her. She said she felt "a little bit paralysed. I think my mind and body went into autopilot and I just froze up at that stage. I think I was really shocked. I think I put my foot up on the dash to push myself away but there were seats behind so I wasn't going anywhere. I was just trying to push myself away to not let that happen."

"It's hard to remember the order of them and which person was which because there were five of them and it's a bit of a blur but I'm pretty sure the driver was next," she said. She was telling this man it would not fit, "that's what I remember telling him". Asked how she felt at this point, she replied: "I was really shocked, I kind of felt, it sounds weird, but a little bit inanimate if that makes sense". She broke down in the witness box at this point and took a break.

When the third man got into the car she told him to stop but "he would not stop and I think at this stage there were also cameras around, and the reason I know is there were a lot of lights and flash lights and I said stop with the cameras and I don't think they did stop." When this man had finished he asked if she was on the pill and she said yes and he left the car.

She described feeling "vacant, upset" and being in crying intermittently. The sight of a familiar shop on the way back towards the town made her cry again.

"I wasn't sobbing quietly, I was visibly upset, I had tears, my breathing was off. I don't think I was kicking or screaming or in convulsions but I was crying a lot."

Two of the men were dropped off and the car continued back towards the town. She was in the back seat again. "The guy to my right kept asking if I wanted oral sex. I kept asking for a phone to contact a friend. I had to ask about four times, no one was listening and eventually the driver handed me his phone."

She used the driver's Facebook Messenger account to contact her friend. Asking for the address of the house he was in. The phone rang and she wanted to answer it but she said the phone was taken from her.

She said she kept saying she wanted to go home but one of the men forced her to receive oral sex. "I was exhausted at that stage. I kept pulling his head back and telling him to stop. He only stopped when he felt like it. The car was still moving, we were on the road back and after that I started crying again. One of them asked me 'are you a virgin or what?' because I was crying".

"Then one of them said we should have a threesome. I was looking for my bag and was aggressively asking where it was and they said if we find your bag can we have a threesome. I said no. One of them put his foot on the back of the front passenger seat like a barrier. I kind of thought I'm not going to get out of this car too quick." She said she was then raped by one of the men in the back and orally raped by the other.

"I don't know how long it lasted... I was counting down the time until I could get out of there. It was a nightmare. Only then I was released and I was allowed to go. He stopped holding on to me."

Describing how she fled from the car, she said: "I was hysterical and I was running and walking and calling out for [her friend]. I knew he was somewhere around that road. I saw someone in the distance. I was calling out but it wasn't him. Eventually, I saw him and his friend on the other side of the road. I was crying and I said briefly what had happened but there was a lot I wasn't saying. But the fact that I was upset and I had texted him from another phone … he just sort of knew."

The man, who was a close school friend of the girl, told the court he found her "in shock and in a terrible state" when she reached him and another friend. He said her clothes were not on properly, her hair was everywhere and her make-up had been wiped off when he met her on the street. He had gone out with another friend to look for her after she appeared "panicked" and had sent a number of messages to him trying to find the address of a house he was in.

He said she sounded panicked and he made a number of attempts to call back the number from which she had phoned.

He said when they found her, she kept saying "I couldn't stop them" and he was "kind of catching on fairly quickly that something bad had happened". He said the woman was in complete shock and distressed. "She was crying, she wasn't making sense, she wasn't drunk and something bad was after happening. She was in shock. We made her tea with sugar and asked her to go through it step-by-step. She told us bits and bobs but was still in shock and we were saying we will have to go to the garda station and she eventually agreed she knew how serious it was. She kept saying there was five of them or six of them and she couldn't do anything".

A number of young men who were in the house that morning took her to a local garda station. They showed the gardaí screengrabs of the Facebook account from which she had earlier sent a message. The profile picture was that of the car they had seen earlier circling the town. CCTV showed it had passed by the nightclub 15 times.

The woman was taken to a sexual assault treatment unit. The garda investigation began. More than five years later, accompanied to court by her parents, she entered the witness box at the Central Criminal Court to give her account of the events of St Stephen's night 2016.


Read more: Four convicted of range of sex offences against 17-year-old girl