Page last updated at 14:04 GMT, Monday, 3 May 2010 15:04 UK

Armagh student attack victim Natasha McShane opens eyes

Brian Cowen and Natasha McShane
Natasha McShane pictured with the Irish prime minister Brian Cowen in 2009 (RPS Group)

Armagh student Natasha McShane who is critically ill after being beaten with a baseball bat, has opened her eyes for the first time since the attack.

Natasha, 23, from Silverbridge, has been in a drug-induced coma since she was attacked 10 days ago on her way home from a night out in Chicago.

Her grandmother, Bernadette, said Natasha opened her eyes for a few moments on Saturday.

Her parents, Liam and Sheila were at her bedside.

"She is opening and closing her eyes and I am told that means there is hope," Mrs McShane said.

"We are hoping that over the next few days, the news will get better."

Mrs McShane said Natasha's sister, Carla, had flown over on Sunday to be by her side.

"It is difficult to be so far away from her at this time. But I am here with the rest of the family."

She said people had been very supportive. A special Mass for Natasha will be held at Glassdrummond chapel on Monday evening.

Natasha, a former Queen's University student, was with a friend, Stacy Jurich, when they were attacked and robbed on their way home from a night out on 23 April.

Two charged

They were making their way home through the Bucktown district when the attack happened.

It is understood the attacker struck both women with an aluminium bat before stealing their purses and running away.

Natasha was struck over the head two or three times.

Natasha's friend, Stacy Jurich, was not as badly hurt and managed to flag down a passing taxi to come to their aid.

Natasha is being treated at the Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

A man suspected of attacking the young student from Silverbridge has been refused bail by a Chicago court.

Heriberto Viramontes, 31, is charged with aggravated battery and armed robbery. Marcy Cruz, 25, is accused of driving him to the scene of the crime.

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