independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Lord Mayor's teenage victim: Sex abuse 'tainted' me

A FORMER Lord Mayor of Cork was jailed for 12 months for a series of vile sex assaults on a teenage girl while he was a serving councillor.

Veteran Labour Party official John Murray (83) was convicted of a total of five sexual assault charges following a harrowing four day Cork Circuit Criminal Court trial.

The victim repeatedly broke down as she outlined how the assaults occurred after Murray told her she was "a very beautiful girl" and that he "would love to f*** her."

The victim, who is now in her 30s, today said the abuse had "tainted her" and transformed her from a happy, outgoing teen with lots of interests to a withdrawn, isolated, and angry person.

"I felt intimidated by him...he was a former Lord Mayor and a very prominent person in Cork society. I felt scared and worried that I would not be believed," she said.

"The only thing I wanted was for justice to be done and for people to know that I was telling the truth," she added.

Judge Sean O'Donnabhain jailed Murray as he said he found very little evidence of remorse for what had happened.

He also noted the impact of the trial and the media coverage on the victim.

"You put her through that," he said as he described the woman's victim impact statement as "eloquent".

But Judge O'Donnabhain said that Murray's advanced age and health had to be factors in sentencing as he imposed a four year prison term but suspended the final three years.

He ordered that he be listed on the Sex Offenders Register.

A jury of seven men and five women had convicted Murray on five of the six charges after deliberating for over six hours.

He was found not guilty on a sixth charge.

One conviction was by unanimous verdict while the other four were by 10-2 and 11-1 majority verdicts.

The former Lord Mayor remained emotionless as he was led away to begin his sentence.

Murray denied sexually assaulting the teen who claimed the abuse happened after he whispered that he would "love to f*** her."

The girl said she was left shocked and frightened by the assaults which happened in Murray's car, in a pub toilet and at another premises in Cork.

She said Murray groped her breasts and her groin area before sexually assaulting her by pushing his hand inside her underwear and penetrating her with his finger.

The woman, who is now in her 30s, sobbed as she said one assault had left her sore and bleeding.

She claimed that once, while sexually assaulting her with one hand, he rubbed his other hand on his groin area.

She said he had opened his trousers and taken out his penis to begin masturbating.

"I was very shocked. I was very upset. This was not something that I had ever experienced. I was frozen with fear," she said.

Murray of 17 Gregg Road, Cork vehemently denied all the charges over various dates between 1996 and 1998.

The first incident occurred three years after he was Lord Mayor but while he was still serving on Cork City Council.

Murray broke down in evidence as he said the claims left him "disgusted" and "sick to the stomach."

The stress and panic attacks brought on by the allegations also resulted in him being hospitalised for a fortnight.

He confirmed he had sought a meeting with the girl's family when the claims were first made - but said he only admitted he touched her breasts and vagina because he was "scared for my life" at the meeting.

"I don't really know where it (the claims) are coming from...but to say all those things? I have never touched (anyone) in any such way or in any shape or form."

He said the meeting with the girl's family became very heated.

"I was scared of my life. I got so scared - the house was completely in an uproar. I said: Is this what you want to hear? Ok, so I touched her breast and I touched her vagina. Now, take me out of here."

Murray operated a successful taxi business until he was 78 and was involved in Cork politics throughout his life.

He was first elected to the then-Cork Corporation in 1985 having failed to win a seat in the 1979 Local Government elections.

He was re-elected in 1991 but, despite a high profile term as Lord Mayor, lost his seat at the 1999 election.

Ralph Riegel

Irish Independent

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