FORMER Irish rugby international David Tweed has been convicted of child sex abuse charges.
The 53-year-old from Clonavon Terrace in Ballymena, Co Antrim, was convicted of 13 counts of indecent assault, gross indecency with a child and inciting gross indecency with a child.
The railway supervisor, who is also a Ballymena councillor, stood trial at Antrim Crown Court accused of sexually abusing two young girls over an eight-year period from 1988.
Judge Alistair Devlin said: "The offences with which you are charged are not only vile and wicked, they particularly disturbing and distasteful crimes."
Remanding Tweed in custody, Judge Devlin said the judiciary treat such crimes seriously.
"All the courts take a very serious view," he added.
The jury of 10 women and two men deliberated for more than eight hours after a trial which lasted three weeks.
They returned guilty verdicts on 10 charges including indecent assault and gross indecency and Tweed was taken into custody. The jury later returned with three further guilty verdicts.
Tweed, who was wearing a dark suit and striped shirt, returned to the dock after lunch without his blue tie. He appeared nervous, fixed his open collar and shook his head throughout the proceedings.
He stood in the dock with his hands clasped tightly and drew a deep intake of breath as the final three guilty verdicts were read out before being led away by prison staff.
Two women who had supported Tweed throughout the hearing wiped away tears.
Yesterday Tweed was cleared of one count of indecent assault.
The father-of-four, who also has two stepchildren, had consistently denied anything improper had happened with the girls who are now adults.
This was the second time Tweed faced child sex abuse allegations.
In 2009 a jury unanimously acquitted him of 10 counts of sex abuse against two different young girls.
None of the victims, who had given evidence during the trial, were in the courtroom to hear the outcome. However their friends and family members sat with their arms linked and wept.
At one point a woman ran into the corridor in tears.
Discharging the jury, Judge Devlin thanked them for their attention throughout the hearing.
"It has not been an easy trial," he said. "It was lengthy, complex and disturbing."
Tweed was capped four times for Ireland. He made his debut against France in the 1995 Five Nations competition and played in the Rugby World Cup in South Africa.
He was also a prominent Ulster Rugby star with more than 30 appearances for the team during the 1980s and 1990s.
His defence barrister Laurence McCrudden QC had claimed he was the victim of a conspiracy.
But in her closing speech Laura Ievers QC for the prosecution argued that Tweed was able to easily hide the abuse because of his position in society.
She said: "He was a big, powerful man, charisma, sporting prowess - the perfect veil to hide behind and the ultimate in living a lie."
Ms Ievers said the defence had been clutching at straws trying to explain the inexplicable.
She added: "He is clearly contradicting himself in effect to explain how and why these allegations occurred."
In one incident it was claimed that Tweed had performed oral sex on one of the girls when she was of primary school age.
It was also claimed Tweed had inappropriately touched both girls.
There was no application for bail and sentencing is due to take place in the new year.
Outside the court the victims and their family declined to comment.