BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK
Front Page 
World 
UK 
England 
Northern Ireland 
Scotland 
Wales 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 



The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"Police officers were shocked to her indifference to the trauma she'd inflicted"
 real 56k

Friday, 16 March, 2001, 18:28 GMT
Girl, 18, convicted of canal rape
Map of the area where the rape took place
A teenage girl who pinned a woman to the ground during a "vile and horrifying" sex attack has been found guilty of rape.

Few women have ever been convicted of rape and Claire Marsh, 18, is believed to be the youngest.

The jury at London's Blackfriars Crown Court spent more than nine hours over two days deliberating and cleared two boys, aged 15 and 16, of the same offence.

Claire Marsh
Claire Marsh: Pinned down woman during gang rape
Marsh, from Margate, Kent, punched the 37-year-old victim in the face and then ripped off her top before she was gang-raped on a canal towpath.

A 15-year-old boy tore off her trousers and raped the woman, the court was told.

The jury heard how others in the 14-strong group - one aged just 12 - looked on and shouted encouragement as the brutal attack unfolded shortly after midnight on 22 July last year.

Victim's escape

When the first youth had finished, Marvin Edwards, 18, also raped her, the court heard.

Marsh, who initially showed no reaction to the verdict, will be sentenced at the Old Bailey on 8 May along with Edwards, of Brentford, west London, and a 15-year-old, who admitted rape at the beginning of the two-and-a-half week trial.


The victim was put through a vicious attack made worse by the fact that the group callously tried to befriend her before attacking her.

Detective Inspector Joanne Oakley
But when Judge Timothy Pontius adjourned sentence and remanded her in custody, rejecting a defence application for interim bail, tears began streaming down her face.

"Given this was a particularly vile and horrifying offence of sexual brutality, a substantial custodial sentence is inevitable," he warned.

Escape attempt

The court had been told how the screaming victim, who had earlier been hurled into the Grand Union Canal in Ladbroke Grove, west London, wriggled free from her attackers, struggled to her feet and made a run for it.


Given this was a particularly vile and horrifying offence of sexual brutality, a substantial custodial sentence is inevitable

Judge Timothy Pontius
But she was then caught, kicked and punched repeatedly and, at one stage, dragged naked along a gravel path, lacerating her bare skin.

The woman, identified only as Miss X for legal reasons, told how her ordeal continued: "They were just grabbing my limbs like an animal sort of thing, just dragging me along the ground kicking me."

She was eventually able to flee naked to her home.

The attack came almost four years after the gang rape by youths of an 33-year-old Austrian tourist who was also thrown into a Regent's Canal in King's Cross, London.

Not unique

Between 1997 and last year a total of 14 women were charged with rape in London alone.

Opening the prosecution, Richard Whittam, had explained to the jury that although Marsh was female it was still perfectly possible to convict her of rape.


They were just grabbing my limbs like an animal sort of thing, just dragging me along the ground kicking me

Victim
By holding her down "while the event was taking place", or simply "encouraging" the others while being prepared to lend a helping hand, she was just as guilty as the actual rapists.

During her evidence, Miss X told the court that she had decided to head home after a "lovely summers evening" drinking but began chatting to a young couple on a bridge over the canal.

Met couple

The court heard the conversation turned to drugs, with the pair offering to share a "spliff" with her before another dozen youngsters suddenly joined them, including three more girls.

The victim told the court how she was surrounded and robbed before being thrown into the canal.

Marvin Edwards
Marvin Edwards pleaded guilty to rape

She had no choice but clamber back on to the bank where her attackers waited.

In the weeks after the attack, detectives matched DNA evidence from Edwards and the woman.

In evidence, Marsh maintained the gang's victim jumped into the canal herself and insisted she had struck the woman in the face only in self-defence.

'Callous'

She went on to deny tearing her top off, or even being present when Miss X was raped.

Afterwards, Detective Inspector Joanne Oakley said: "The victim was put through a vicious attack made worse by the fact that the group callously tried to befriend her before attacking her.

"She has understandably been extremely traumatised by her ordeal both on the night and in the months afterwards.

"She is very please with the verdict and now intends to fully concentrate on rebuilding her life."

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE
See also:

Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories