Saturday 10 December 2016

Former Archbishop admits sleeping with more than one married woman - High Court

Richard Burke continuing action against RTE alleging he was defamed in Prime Time programme

Published 29/06/2015 | 13:31

Former Archbishop Richard Burke leaves court
Former Archbishop Richard Burke leaves court

A FORMER Catholic Archbishop has denied the reason a woman was "deeply troubled" in her relationships was because he had sexually exploited her when she was "a vulnerable child".

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Co Tipperary-born Richard Burke (66) told the High Court he had not had any sexual encounter with Dolores Atwood until 1989 when she was aged 20 and he 40.

He was under cross-examination on the fifth day of his action against RTE arising out of its Prime Time "Mission to Prey" programme

broadcast on May 23, 2011. Mr Burke claims the programme wrongly depicted him as a paedophile.

He told the court that when they first had sex, Ms Atwood was very sexually experienced and his interaction with her could not have warped her later relationships.

When she was aged in her thirties, she told him uninvited and in detail about her sexual experience, he said.

He agreed he had other sexual encounters while he was a cleric, including with a married Nigerian mother of eight. He also said he had

“embraced" and "improperly touched”, but had not had sex with, a sister of Ms Atwood.

Mr Burke, a member of the Kiltegan Fathers who served as a priest, and later as Bishop and Archbishop of Benin in Nigeria after being

ordained in 1975, remains under continuing cross-examination in his action against RTE.

RTE denies he was defamed.

The jury has been told Dolores Atwood alleges Mr Burke first had sex with her when she was aged 14.

Read more: Former Archbishop suing RTE says he began sexual relationship with woman when she was 20

Today, the jury heard recordings of phone conversations of November 2007 between Mr Burke and Chris Atwood, husband of Dolores Atwood, where Mr Atwood asked the cleric about the relationship between himself and Ms Atwood.

Earlier, in reply to Paul O'Higgins SC, for RTE, before the recordings were played, Mr Burke said he had been wrong about some of the dates he mentioned during the phone calls.

During the calls, Mr Burke told Mr Atwood he and Ms Atwood had an intimate relationship "going back 22-23" years.

While from his own point of view, there had been no relationship for years, "from Dolores' point of view, it has never stopped in her

heart", Mr Burke said.

It had recently taken a turn that was "not good at all" and he felt he was being blackmailed by her, he said.

When Mr Burke referred to making payments to Ms Atwood, Mr Atwood said his wife had described Mr Burke as "bribing" her.

Mr Burke said he totally rejected that.   He believed Ms Atwood "is totally obsessed with me and has been for years".

When Mr Atwood asked Mr Burke about his wife's claim she was 14 when she and Mr Burke first had sex, Mr Burke said that was untrue.

Earlier, in reply to Mr O'Higgins, Mr Burke said he had had an “encounter” with a married Nigerian mother of eight but he could not

remember when that occurred.

He agreed sleeping with married women could adversely affect family relationships.

He said he had not intended to do so and what he did was “absolutely inappropriate, stupid and wrong”.

Asked was Ms Atwood his only amorous relationship, he said he had “experiences with other people” and Ms Atwood “reacted badly” to that.

When put to him he had had experiences with “quite a lot” of other people, he said “some other people”.

Counsel said the number of people was “in the teens”, adding he was referring to the number, and not age.

Earlier, asked what age he considered it was morally wrong to have sex, Mr Burke said, because he was a priest, any age was wrong and

"grossly unacceptable for me".

He said consensual sexual relationships between adults are entirely different from being accused of having a sexual relationship with a 13

or 14 year old.

When counsel said he was asking the jury to award him money, Mr Burke became clearly angry and, in a raised voice, said that was “a lie”.

He had not come to court for money but “because RTE accused me of having a sexual relationship with the girl when she was 13 or 14” and “gave me no opportunity to answer that allegation”.

The case continues before Ms Justice Iseult O'Malley and a jury.

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