Tuesday 24 October 2017

Silence, then sobs as verdict is read out

Dearbhail McDonald

Dearbhail McDonald

BECAUSE he was my dad, because I loved him.

This was the reason why a frightened little girl returned home to her father every time she ran away from the state care into which she and her siblings had been placed.

Her father had raped her in their family home, in a Dublin hotel, even in the toilets of a McDonald's restaurant where he threatened to kill her mother and brother if she told anyone.

She was not alone.

Over the course of a two-month trial in the Central Criminal Court, two sisters and a brother (now aged 19, 18 and 17) testified against their 73-year-old father, outlining a campaign of sexual terror that took place between 1997 and 2002.

Yesterday a sombre silence descended on courtroom number six as the jury returned to deliver their verdict on an outstanding number of charges against the man.

The silence was soon punctuated by the sobs of one of his daughters who buried her face in the arms of a victim-support advocate.

The father is already serving a lengthy jail term for the indecent assault of young children.

Yesterday High Court Judge George Bermingham excused the jury from service for life, describing their commitment to the harrowing seven-week trial as "a splendid example of citizenship at its best".

During the trial, one daughter told the judge that the abuse began when she was five and, recalled how, aged six, she was repeatedly raped by him in the mornings before she went to school.

She did not know how her mother did not know what terrors some of her children were being subjected to.

Her brother was only three when his father began sexually assaulting him, continuing over a three-year period until he was placed into foster care.

One of the places where his father abused him was in the bathroom and the then toddler developed a fear of going there lest his father abuse him.

His foster mother told the Central Criminal Court that the boy was so terrified of going to the bathroom that he would go to the toilet "anywhere and everywhere".

He would go to the toilet in the corner of a room or in drawers where he would then cover his bodily waste with clean clothes.

It took two years to toilet train the then six-year-old who, when he arrived, did not know how to use a spoon or fork.

According to the father, his family home "couldn't have been happier".

When his son found the courage to disclose his abuse, the elderly man accused his foster mother of "planting" stories against him.

The man and his wife had brought an assault case against the woman and her partner for allegedly biting their children while in foster care. The prosecution was taken privately without consulting the gardai or the DPP.

Giving evidence, the foster mother told how "for years" she had put up with abuse from the boy's family.

Ten years ago, gardai took the father away for questioning. When he was released, every one of the children were gone, gone for good reason.

Irish Independent

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