Friday 15 December 2017

Ex-archbishop says RTÉ programme's rape claims 'a lie'

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

Tim Healy

A former Catholic Archbishop has told a High Court jury he was falsely portrayed during an RTÉ television programme as leading a young girl up a stairs to his bedroom where he raped her.

"I could not believe my eyes," said Richard Burke, former Archbishop of Benin, Nigeria.

"This did not happen, I did not do that, what is portrayed there is a lie."

When his counsel Jack Fitzgerald SC asked: "Are you a paedophile?," he replied: "No."

Mr Burke (66), from Co Tipperary, said he was living in London with a member of his order, the Kiltegan Fathers, when the 'Prime Time Investigates' 'Mission to Prey' programme was screened on May 23 2011. He could not access RTÉ One TV but his niece sent him texts which, as the programme went on, progressed from: "This is bad" to "This is really bad" to, in essence, "This is as bad as it can be".

On getting those texts, "my heart began to sink and sink and sink into darkness, utter fear".

He was unable to watch the full programme until about a month later when he saw it at his sister's home. His impression was he was being accused of being a paedophile, especially in a part of the programme involving a dramatisation where a young girl was led up a stairs.

A reference by the reporter that he had declined to be interviewed "gave me a hook to hang on to" because he got no invitation to respond to the claims being made, he said.

Mr Burke has begun his evidence in his action against RTÉ alleging he was defamed in the 'Mission to Prey' programme, which included an interview with a Nigerian woman, Dolores Atwood.

Mr Burke claims that interview, and other material in the report, wrongly depicted him as a paedophile and rapist who sexually assaulted Ms Atwood at the age of 13 when she was in a hospital bed, and had sex with her the age of 14.

Mr Burke claims he had sexual relations with Ms Atwood, now aged 45, as an adult but not when she was under age.

The jury heard RTÉ has said reporter Aoife Kavanagh tried to contact Mr Burke various times between March 14, 2011 and May 4, 2011 but could not reach him.

RTÉ also said the programme had stated Mr Burke continued to claim his relationship with Ms Atwood was consensual and began when she was an adult.

Irish Independent

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