England

Herne Bay woman gang-raped in 1998 seeks justice

Joanna Bath
Image caption Ms Bath said she had tried to block out the memories but the attack had "ruined" her life

A woman raped by three men says she is living with the consequences of the 1998 attack for which no-one was convicted.

Joanna Bath, of Kent, wants her London attackers "named and shamed" in court.

One man was charged, but Ms Bath said she fled the UK and chose not to give evidence after she was warned barristers would "rip her apart".

The Metropolitan Police said specialist detectives were ready to speak to her and review any new evidence.

Ms Bath, who has waived her right to anonymity to speak exclusively to BBC South East, said she was held at knifepoint and had a gun held to her head.

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Media captionAbducted and raped woman speaks of ordeal

Then aged 23, she had travelled from Herne Bay to Stoke Newington to stay with a friend but was approached and abducted when she went out to buy cigarettes.

She said she was held in an attic and repeatedly raped. The next morning she escaped.

Image copyright Joanna Bath
Image caption Joanna Bath flew to Australia as the trial was due to start

Ms Bath said: "I'm on so much medication. I turned to drugs, just tried to block it out, attempted suicide - the nightmares are horrific."

But she added: "I want them named. I want them shamed. And even if they don't go to prison or anything like that, I just want them to know that I'm still here."

Ms Bath said police took her to a rape suite after she reported the attack but left her on her own for two days, with no female officers and nothing to eat.

She said she gave the police enough details and had known the main attacker.

But she said before the trial she was told she could not see her solicitor until the day of the court appearance and was not allowed to give evidence from behind a screen.

"Her words were 'you're going to have three barristers rip you apart, be prepared for that'."

Image copyright Joanna Bath
Image caption When asked if she regretted flying to Australia, Ms Bath replied "yes and no"
Image copyright Joanna Bath
Image caption She said she had been left feeling suicidal and going to Australia might have saved her life

Katie Russell, from Rape Crisis, said there had been efforts to improve the criminal justice system for sexual violence survivors in the past 20 years and people would now find it "a lot more respectful and appropriate and potentially less re-traumatising".

She said the vast majority - about 80% to 85% - of those who were raped or sexually assaulted chose not to go to the police.

"Even for those who do report, sometimes the process can be so difficult or take so long that they choose to drop out before the case gets to court, so we should never underestimate how difficult a process this can be."

Ms Russell said there was now more recognition of victims' needs and independent advocates were available.

In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said a woman reported a rape in 1998 and was examined by a doctor and then cared for by a friend.

Detectives carried out a thorough investigation and a man was charged with rape and false imprisonment, while inquiries continued to find the other suspects, it said.

The case went to the Old Bailey but was withdrawn by the CPS following significant further evidence.

"In the 18 years since this allegation, police are not aware of any complaint," the Met said.

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