The daughters of convicted paedophile David Tweed have urged other survivors of incest and sexual and physical abuse to speak out to prevent their abuser from being protected by a wall of silence.
In a hard-hitting documentary on BBC One’s ‘Spotlight’ programme last night, the ex-wife and four daughters of the former international rugby star and Northern Ireland politician laid bare the years of physical and sexual abuse they endured by the man they described as “the monster behind the mask.”
Tweed, who served as a councillor for both the DUP and the TUV in Ballymoney, Co Antrim, died in a motorcycle accident last October.
But it was the glowing tributes from his former colleagues following his death – that have since been recanted – that prompted his family to speak out, according to his daughter Victoria.
"It wasn’t until he died that I had to take a stance and say what kind of a monster youse (sic) are singing praises about,” she told the programme.
"That’s when we all sort of stood together saying ‘we’ve had enough.”
Amanda Brown, the daughter of Tweed’s ex-wife Margaret from a previous relationship, described how she witnessed Tweed beating up her mother when she was a small child and Margaret was pregnant with her daughter Lorraine.
"He held her against the bathroom door choking her until Mum passed out,” she said of Tweed, who stood at 6’6” tall.
"He left her face in a really bad state where she’s had to hide away for weeks until it healed,” she said.
"My mum tried to leave a couple of times, but he would threaten to either hurt us or take us away or even murder her,” she said.
Lorraine Tweed recalled how her father issued ominous threats to her, like “I know this man, he is going to come after you with a chainsaw and saw your head off.”
She said he would also fly into violent rages over nothing and on one occasion she recalled how banged her head off the wall when she was a primary schoolgirl after she stuck her fingers in her ears to stop her mother admonishing her for something.
But it wasn’t until allegations of sex abuse by two other women against Tweed surfaced that the daughters discovered that they had all been sexually abused by him from an early age.
Amanda recalled how her father would “creep into the room at night,” starting when she was just eight years old.
"You just never felt safe, even at home, “ she said. "He’d just be there looming over you.”
Victoria added: “We all lived in fear.”
"I was petrified of the dark,” she said of her fear of a shadowy figure coming into her bedroom at night that she later realised was Tweed after suffering flashbacks of the abuse when she was 16.
"All I could picture was his face over the bed on top of me and breathing heavy.”
The sisters also revealed that their cousin Gemma Boyd had also disclosed to them that she had been abused by Tweed, her uncle. Yet despite reporting the abuse to police, it never went to court. And the Tweed sisters believe this may have been what drove her to take her own life at the age of just 20.
Even though Tweed was found guilty of sexually abusing his daughters and sentenced to four years in prison and four years on license in 2013, his conviction was overturned on appeal due to a technicality and he was released from prison in 2016.
But Amanda and Lorraine, who testified against their father in court, said the process was harrowing and took two years from the time he was charged until his court date.
"I felt like that wee child reliving it,” Lorraine said of having to face her father in court.
"You felt sick.”
Amanda also said that she felt she was in the prisoner’s dock and not her father when she was questioned by his defence team.
"I felt like I had done something wrong, the way I was spoken to,” she said.
Meanwhile, former Appeal Court Justice Sir John Gillen, who reviewed the way sexual assault cases are handled by the courts in Northern Ireland, told the programme; “If we’re going to have proper protection for women and girls and children in our community then it is necessary that we all stand up and complainants come forward and bring these matters before the justice system.”
Meanwhile, Amanda urged other survivors of physical and sexual abuse to speak out.
"Our silence protected him,” she said of her father.
But now that the family has spoken the truth about their father, Amanda said a weight has been lifted off their shoulders.
"We can only grow stronger as each day passes,” she said.