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Ex-bishop tells court he had sex with woman in Nigeria


Retired archbishop Richard Burke leaving court yesterday

Retired archbishop Richard Burke leaving court yesterday

Retired archbishop Richard Burke leaving court yesterday

A FORMER Catholic Archbishop has told the High Court he had an "inappropriate" sexual relationship with a woman in Nigeria which began in 1989 when she was aged 20 and he was 40.

Tipperary-born Richard Burke (66), ordained a priest in 1975, said he felt "uneasy" about the demeanour of then 20-year-old Dolores Atwood, which "gave an impression of being flirtatious", when she came unexpectedly to his private apartment on a Sunday afternoon in the Nigerian city of Warri in September or October 1989.

Mr Burke was being cross-examined in his continuing action alleging defamation in the May 2011 'Prime Time Investigates: Mission to Prey' programme.

Mr Burke, a former Archbishop of Benin, Nigeria, alleges it wrongly depicted him as a paedophile. RTÉ denies defamation.

He told the court that after Ms Atwood came to his apartment, he left her in the room while he went to see if he could find a "chaperone" but he later returned alone to the room "in turmoil".

Her "smile, eyes, expression suggested something to me", indicated she "wanted to be intimate with me" and he felt "flattered".

After she made an "embracing gesture", he responded that he would "accept her invitation" and they went to his bedroom, where they "made love, including full sexual intercourse".

He later felt a mix of confusion and guilt, knew what had happened was wrong, believed she was falling in love with him and told her he was leaving for Ireland in the spring of 1990.

The sexual relationship was inappropriate because he was a priest with a commitment to celibacy, he said.

Asked by Paul O'Higgins SC, for RTÉ, was there any other reason, he said it was also inappropriate because he was twice her age.

There was no intimacy of any description between them before autumn 1989 and he had not had sexual thoughts about her, he said. He had "genuinely believed" she was born in 1968 but later learned it was August 1969.

She was from an Islamic family but was attracted to the Catholic Church.

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In direct examination, Mr Burke said Ms Atwood sought €200,000 from him in 2009 after he had paid her some €176,000 over a number of years.

He felt "terrorised" by Ms Atwood and feared she would disclose their sexual relationship, which would bring disgrace on himself and his ministry.

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