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Last Updated: Monday, 12 June 2006, 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK
Abuse case that 'beggars belief'
Rumney, Cardiff
The child was taken from her home in the Rumney area of Cardiff
Speculation was rife when police searched a house in Newport days after a three-year-old girl was abducted from her Cardiff home and assaulted.

It was only as their search progressed, the sinister truth of what had happened at the flat in Caerleon Road emerged.

Craig Sweeney, 24, had been living in the converted house since his early release on child sex abuse charges.

It was at the flat that he carried out sex attacks on the girl in an order which a judge said "beggars belief".

The girl's ordeal began on Monday 2 January - just two days after the licence on which Sweeney had been released expired.

The toddler had not long returned from a shopping trip with her mother when Sweeney appeared at their front doorstep of their home in Rumney in Cardiff.

During his sentencing, prosecutor Susan Ferrier said: "He introduced himself and the mother recognised him.

Craig Sweeney
Craig Sweeney snatched the girl from her own home

"He was invited in the house and sat with the family in the kitchen. They were already concerned about comments he was making.

"He said he had just been released from prison and he said he had spent times with paedophiles and rapists. He was also spending time playing with the children.

"The mother went to make a telephone call and heard her 10-year-old son yelling 'he's got her'.

"He could clearly see that Sweeney was leaving with the little girl. It was too late, he was already gone."

He drove her to his flat in Newport and sexually assaulted her.

Fifteen miles away in Cardiff, a frantic search by the girl's family, neighbours and police was under way.

Forensic officers
Forensic officers carried out a detailed search of the hostel

But as people desperately searched for the child, a drunken Sweeney was showing off the child to his housemates in Newport including other convicted sex offenders staying at the address.

He was challenged by a friend and told that police were looking for him. Sweeney said he was going to take her back, but instead he drove in the opposite direction.

During the early hours of Tuesday, when he got to Swindon, he pulled into a lay-by and carried out another sexual assault on the child before continuing his journey.

Police officers spotted his car had no lights on, and when it jumped a red light a 13-mile chase ensued. At times Sweeney reached speeds of 100 mph with the terrified youngster in his car.

Driving erratically, he lost control of his car down a embankment after swerving to avoid a lorry on the A4 between Hungerford and Marlborough nearly 90 miles away from the girl's home.

Police arrested Sweeney before discovering the little girl lying at the side of the road where he had hurled her out of the car.

She was airlifted to hospital where doctors found "significant other injuries" from the sex attack.

She asked medics looking after her: "Is the nasty man gone?"

The next day doctors said she was well enough to go home, but, according to relatives, she was terrified and too scared to return. Instead, she stayed with her mother at an undisclosed address.

Her family told BBC News how she was coping with what had happened to her but had not wanted to return home.

They said the child was "very quiet and hasn't said very much at all".

Meanwhile, forensic officers sealed off and began a painstaking search of the house in Newport Sweeney had been living.

Convicted paedophile

The property was searched inside and out in a bid to gather evidence of the attack he had carried out on the girl.

Local people in the street expressed horror at what may have gone on in the flat and at what sort of people were living in the property.

Their fears came true when it emerged during a court hearing in April that Sweeney was already a convicted paedophile.

At that hearing, Sweeney admitted kidnap, three charges of sexual assault and dangerous driving.

But the court also heard how Sweeney had already been convicted of indecent assault on a child in 2003 and had carried out his attack on the three-year-old during his early release from a three-year sentence for the crime.

After serving half of his sentence, he was released from prison and living in a flat in Newport where he then went on to sexually abuse the three-year-old.

Life for paedophile abduction
12 Jun 06 |  Wales

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