Tuesday 12 December 2017

DJ 'disgusted' at Cooke's sex abuse

Gareth O’Callaghan. Picture: Gerry Mooney
Gareth O’Callaghan. Picture: Gerry Mooney

Alan O'Keeffe

Radio DJ Gareth O'Callaghan said he never suspected paedophile Eamon Cooke was molesting children while he was broadcasting in another room in the same building.

O'Callaghan joined Radio Dublin in 1979 - a year after a mass walk-out of staff from the station.

When O'Callaghan began working for Cooke, who owned the pirate station based in his home in Inchicore, the DJ said he believed the staff had walked out because they wanted to take up the opportunity of working for a new, more professional pirate station named Big D. 'Magill' news magazine had reported in 1978 that the staff who joined the rival station had concerns about claims Cooke was sexually molesting children.

"I was 18 when I joined Radio Dublin and it was the dream of a lifetime to be on radio shows five nights a week. I didn't have a clue then that Cooke was molesting children," he said.

"I was disgusted when I heard in the mid-80s, when I moved back to Ireland from England, that he was molesting young girls who had come forward to the gardaí," he said.

The 4FM radio presenter and author said he only discovered that he and missing boy Philip Cairns were second cousins about 12 years ago, when he learned he and Philip shared a great-grandfather.

A woman came forward to gardaí last month to say she was nine-years-old when she witnessed Cooke knock the boy unconscious in a room in the Radio Dublin studio.

The jailed sex predator, found guilty of sex attacks on children at his home, died recently. Philip's body was never found.

"I never witnessed anything out of the ordinary at the station. If I did, I would have got the hell out of there and gone to the guards," the broadcaster told the Irish Independent yesterday.

"It's very difficult to understand how that could have been happening as the building was such a hive of activity.

"It didn't seem to make sense. He was abusing children in the back of the house and in a room upstairs . . . It could have been going on while I was broadcasting in the same building," he said.

"I found Cooke to be a weird, eccentric guy who was physically dirty, wearing dirty clothes and unshaven.

"His hair was a mess and he was permanently smoking. He was a dirty man who wouldn't look you in the eye and I thought he kept to himself a lot. He'd be pottering around the station fixing things," he said.

He said a lot of girls would arrive looking for telephonist and secretarial work at the station.

"These girls worked part-time for no money and were attracted by the glamour of a radio station. They looked like they were 18 or 20 but may not have been more than 14 or 15. It seems obvious now he may have been grooming them," he said.

Previously, the DJ said the possibility Philip Cairns was Cooke's victim "didn't add up".

Irish Independent

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