By Declan Brennan
A jury has convicted four men of a range of sexual assaults of a teenage girl in a car six years ago.
In the early hours of the morning of December 27th, 2016, the then 17-year-old girl got into a car with five men after she became separated from her friends at the end of a night-out in Tullamore, Co Offaly.
She asked for a lift to a place in the county, but instead the car drove along backroads towards nearby Kilbeggan, Co Westmeath. During this journey the girl was repeatedly sexually assaulted by a number of men who groped and molested her.
The car was parked up at a remote spot on the Harbour Road, Kilbeggan and two of the defendants and another man then raped her one after another. The car was then driven back into Tullamore and parked at the Whitehall car park.
The woman was crying and asked to leave the car, but two of the men stopped her getting out of the car. One of these men raped her for a second time and another orally raped her.
After just under nine hours of deliberations the jury found the four defendants guilty of a number of charges.
The driver on the night, Marcos Vinicius De Silva Umbelino (22) of Riverview, Kilbeggan, Co Westmeath, was convicted of sexually assaulting the woman by groping and molesting her on the journey. He was also convicted of raping her at Harbour road.
Eduardo Dias Ferreira Filho (24) of Riverview, Kilbeggan, Co Westmeath, was convicted of sexually assaulting her on the initial journey. He was convicted of orally raping the girl at the Whitehall car park.
Gabriel Gomes Da Rocha (24) of Mount Armstrong, Rahan, Tullamore, Co Offaly, was convicted of sexually assaulting the girl on the car journey out of town.
He was also found guilty of raping her in the car at the remote spot and again at Whitehall car-park at the same time as Ferreira Filho was sexually assaulting her.
Da Rocha and Ferreira Filho were convicted of falsely imprisoning the girl in the car at Whitehall. The woman told the jury that she when she asked to leave the car at this point one of the men told her “not until we get our threesome” and that the two men in the backseat stopped her getting out.
Ethan Nikolaou (23) of Brosna Park, Kilbeggan, Co Westmeath, was convicted of sexually assaulting the girl on the journey between Tullamore and Kilbeggan and of sexually assaulting her at the spot in Kilbeggan.
A fifth man, Conor Byrne (24) of Ballybeg, Moate, Co Westmeath, was due to go on trial with the other men but pleaded guilty at the last minute to raping the girl on the night.
The jury returned not guilty verdicts on a number of the charges. All verdicts were unanimous.
The defendants, who were aged between 17 and 19 at the time, had denied all the charges.
Their lawyers had told the jury that it was their position that some of the alleged sexual acts never took place and that any that did were believed by their clients to be consensual.
Relatives of some of the defendants began crying after the verdicts were delivered and became hysterical when prison guards later took the men into custody.
In his garda interviews in March 2018, Da Rocha accepted that he and the others had taken advantage of the girl and that it wasn't right.
He agreed with a submission that the men became horny and that they all went “too far”. He said that he would like to tell her “sorry please forgive us”.
The woman testified that she became upset when the sexual assaults began in the back of the moving car and tried to push the men's hands off her. She said after the first rape in the parked car she froze up and felt like she was inanimate.
The trial ran at the Central Criminal Court, sitting in a conference room at Croke Park, for the last four weeks and the jury began deliberating on Monday.
Justice Tara Burns thanked jurors for their attendance and said she was excusing them from jury duty for life due to the harrowing nature of the evidence.
She remanded the four defendants in custody to a sentence hearing on May 30th next and ordered the preparation of a victim impact report for that date.
She told the victim she was a “very, very brave young woman”.
The judge said she was “beyond impressed” with how she had conducted herself with “absolute dignity” during the trial. She said she hoped this portion of her life could be put behind her.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can call the national 24-hour Rape Crisis Helpline at 1800 77 8888, access text service and webchat options at drcc.ie/services/helpline/, or visit Rape Crisis Help.
In the case of an emergency, always dial 999/112.