The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - AVA BENNY- MOR­RI­SON

A YOUNG woman who claimed she was raped by a group of Bull­dogs NRL play­ers in Coffs Har­bour has been al­legedly sex­u­ally as­saulted and stabbed.

A man al­legedly sex­u­ally as­saulted her in­side her cot­tage in Grafton in north­ern NSW and stabbed her in the face last year.

Her al­leged at­tacker was only a few weeks out on pa­role when the in­ci­dent oc­curred. The woman was left with se­ri­ous in­juries and is ex­pected to give ev­i­dence at her at­tacker’s trial in Syd­ney early next year. In June, an­other man bashed her over the head with a torch in Sandy Beach.

The two as­saults were un­re­lated to the Bull­dogs al­le­ga­tions but they punc­tu­ate a life af­fected by crime and drugs since the al­le­ga­tions were made against the Bull­dogs.

The woman, who has never spo­ken pub­licly about the 2004 in­ci­dent, still lives in the area around Coffs Har­bour.

The down­ward spi­ral be­gan in Fe­bru­ary, 2004, when the woman — then a sin­gle mother-of-one liv­ing at home with her fam­ily — al­leged she had been the vic­tim of the gang rape.

The woman, who had met the Bull­dogs play­ers at the Plan­ta­tion Ho­tel, al­leged she was sex­u­ally as­saulted by six play­ers around the pool of the Novo­tel Pa­cific Bay Re­sort on the morn­ing of Sun­day, Fe­bru­ary 22.

The play­ers ad­mit­ted to hav­ing con­sen­sual group sex at the ho­tel but on the pre­vi­ous Wed­nes­day. A ho­tel worker gave a state­ment to po­lice that he saw a woman hav­ing sex with a player in the pool in the early hours of Sun­day morn­ing but there were no other play­ers there. Within 48 hours of the com­plaint be­ing made po­lice said they iden­ti­fied be­tween 70 and 80 sig­nif­i­cant er­rors in the vic­tim’s case af­ter as­sess­ing her five state­ments.

“The in­con­sis­ten­cies were not just iden­ti­fied from one wit­ness,” for­mer De­tec­tive Sergeant Glen Pearce said this week. “We had state­ments from the play­ers, the taxi driver, the ho­tel pa­trons. It was a whole jig­saw, maybe as many as 40 dif­fer­ent wit­nesses are cre­at­ing all these dif­fer­ent in­con­sis­ten­cies in her ver­sion. And we couldn’t iden­tify one in­con­sis­tency with what the Bull­dog play­ers had told us. They came across as over­whelm­ing.” A friend who was at the ho­tel with the woman also told po­lice the as­sault claim was fab­ri­cated.

The case was re­ferred to the DPP, which con­firmed there was in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to lay sex­ual as­sault charges.

“I was em­bar­rassed to take it to the DPP,” Mr Pearce said.

His views were at odds with for­mer De­tec­tive In­spec­tor Ja­son Bre­ton, who over­saw the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and be­lieved the woman had been sex­u­ally as­saulted. Pearce, who left the force in 2005, has pushed for NSW Po­lice to apol­o­gise to the Bull­dogs for treat­ing them “un­rea­son­ably and un­fairly”.

An­other de­tec­tive said nine of 10 de­tec­tives based in the Coffs Har­bour Po­lice Sta­tion left in the wake of the scan­dal. “The Bull­dogs case split the of­fice in half, we lost unity,” he said. The woman’s fam­ily de­clined to com­ment when ap­proached by The Sun­day Tele­graph last week.

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