Rapes leave festival boss devastated

Organisers of the Latitude Festival said they were devastated last night after two rape allegations overshadowed this year’s event.

Despite the hugely successful weekend for the majority of festival-goers at Henham Park, near Southwold, organiser Melvin Benn said the two isolated incidents were a “massive, massive blow”.

Police confirmed yesterday they were investigating a second rape allegation on the festival site.

A 17-year-old girl from Suffolk came forward on Saturday afternoon to say she had been raped in a tent on the campsite on Friday night. A 19-year-old Essex man was arrested and is being questioned.

Detectives said initial indications were that the attack was not linked to the horrific rape of a young woman by a group of males at the festival on Thursday night.

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Mr Benn told the East Anglian Daily Times: “In general, it has been a very good weekend for the vast majority of people, but unfortunately there are two people for whom it has probably been the worst weekend of their lives.

“And for them it is a shocking experience, as well as for myself and those who work to create a friendly festival. It is a massive, massive blow to me.

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“It has been awful and you work hard to create something that is a positive experience in people’s lives and in the main we have succeeded in doing that – but these two incidents that have happened, it just hurts a lot and it is very upsetting.”

When asked about the danger of the festival losing its family-friendly image, he said: “Of course it is a concern, but the reality is that people judge their time at the festival on their experiences at the festival – which have been overhwlemingly positive.

“These incidents were not crimes because of a festival failure. They were crimes because of the society we live in.

“I think it has been an incredibly positive experience in general, the bands and the performers have been exceptional and Belle and Sebastian for me was a dream come true to headline Latitude.”

With the exception of the two incidents, crime had been down, he said.

Following the report of the attack on the 17-year-old Suffolk girl, officers immediately went to the site and located the tent where the incident was alleged to have happened.

The man was arrested at about 9pm on Saturday and was last night still being quizzed by officers.

In the Thursday night attack, the 19-year-old had left her tent in the red area of the campsite at about 10pm to 10.30pm to find the toilet, but lost her bearings and approached a group of young men for help.

After walking with the group for some distance, some of the males left to go in another direction while the other males led the victim off a path and into a wooded area where she was raped by at least one of them

Over the weekend, police carried out joint patrols with security staff employed by the organisers, Festival Republic, and handed out flyers on the site. These carried a simple appeal for information following the incident.

Officers also sent messages to Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones on the site in order to reach as many potential witnesses to the rape as possible. Police are continuing to appeal for help in locating this group, which included one man described as white, with dark curly hair, about 5ft 7ins tall, of medium build, possibly in his 20s and with a Cockney accent.

Officers also still need to speak to anyone who was approached by a young woman asking for directions on the site at about 10pm to 10.30pm on Thursday.

At the time she was wearing denim leggings, a yellow and white check shirt, a black cardigan and wellington boots and police need to trace anyone who may have seen a young woman matching this description talking to males on the site around this time.

Call Suffolk police on 01473 613500 if you can help.

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