Thursday, May 11, 2023

Claire Henry

A woman has told a jury trial that her father and three brothers raped her multiple times a week for years until she turned 18 and moved out.

A 66-year-old man and his three sons, aged 38, 40 and 41, are on trial at the Central Criminal Court charged with numerous counts of sexually abusing four members of their extended family, who were all children at the time.

The 63-year-old wife of the oldest man is also on trial charged with assaulting her nephew and granddaughter and assisting one of her sons who allegedly anally raped her granddaughter.

The alleged offences occurred between 1999 and 2005 in various locations around the country, and the complainants and the accused are all part of an extended family.

There is a total of 126 counts on the indictment before the court. The five defendants deny all of the charges against them.

The third complainant, now aged 36, gave evidence on Thursday that from the age of seven or eight, her father allegedly sexually assaulted her numerous times a week. This would include him touching her genital area and breasts.

She told Shane Costelloe SC, prosecuting, that from the age of 11, her father raped her several times a week until she moved away at the age of 18.

The woman said she is unable to read as she rarely went to school and that she did not know how old she was until she recently got her birth certificate.

She said she has been with her now partner for 18 years, and they have four children together. The woman said that she has one other older child. Mr Costello asked her who this child’s father was, and she replied, “my father”.

She said she found out she was pregnant when she went to the doctor as she had the flu. During her examination, she told the GP that she had missed some of her “monthlies.” The GP then informed her that she was pregnant.

The court heard that the woman returned home to the caravan and told her sister. She asked her to tell their parents.

Machine stick

When asked by Mr Costello if her father said anything to her, she said, “I hope you know it’s mine”. The woman gave birth two months later but was not allowed to raise the child. Her mother raised the baby.

The woman was asked if she ever tried to stop the abuse or say no, and she replied, “No, you would get a beating.” When asked to describe the beatings, she said it could be with a “machine stick”, which is used for cleaning chimneys.

Mr Costello asked the woman if her father was the only one to do these things to her, and she replied, “No, my three brothers did the same”. The woman told the court that three of her four brothers each raped her multiple times a week from the age of 12 to 18.

The court heard the alleged rapes would occur in the caravan and car at the side of the road in locations in Connacht and Leinster. The alleged rapes would consist of oral rape and vaginal rape.

Mr James McGowan, SC, defending the second accused, asked the complainant to tell them about the caravan that she lived in with her brothers and sisters, and she replied that it was a four-berth caravan with two double beds.

Mr McGowan asked the complainant if, from around the age of 12 to 15, she lived in the west of Ireland, which she agreed with. He put it to her that her brother, his client, did not live in the west of Ireland at that time but, in fact, lived in the east of the country, which she rejected.

He said: “Is it safe to safe, from your evidence today, that you can’t remember what happened at each location?” She replied: “Of course I remember. It’s hard growing up as a child in a caravan on the side of the road and moving all the time”.

Mr McGowan asked her if she was aware of extended family members who received compensation, and she agreed she was and that she received compensation a year ago as a result of the treatment down the years. She refused to disclose the amount, saying “no money in the world would bring back her childhood”.

DNA testing

Mr McGowan referred to her earlier evidence that no one else was present when she was being abused by her brothers. He said that in a statement to the gardaí in 2016, the woman said that two of her sisters were in the caravan on some occasions.

Dominic McGinn SC, defending the third accused, said: “When you found out you were pregnant, you told everyone that your father was the baby’s father. You said this because, at that time, it was only your father who was abusing you”. The woman rejected this.

The woman agreed with Mr McGinn that DNA testing showed her father to be the baby’s father. Mr McGinn suggested to the woman that her brother, the third accused, never sexually abused her, and she replied, “Yes, it did happen”.

Mr McGinn asked the woman if she had a specific memory of the first time his client allegedly raped her. She replied, “Yes, it was in a caravan”. He then referred to notes from a social care worker taken in 2016 that stated the first time this defendant raped her was in a car, which the woman could not remember.

Ciaran O’Loughlin SC, for the fifth defendant, put it to the woman that in 1999 his client met a woman and moved away and couldn’t have done anything to her after early 2000. The woman replied that “they would come back when they would have arguments with their girlfriends and stay in the caravan”.

Mr O’Loughlin said his client was interviewed by gardaí, who put parts of her statement to him, and he stated that he wasn’t living there at those times, to which she replied, “But he came back”.

She put it to the woman that records made one month after the birth of her first child state that she wanted her mother to look after the baby so that she could travel to the UK. The woman said, “I did not want to sign my child over to my mother.”

The trial continues before Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring and a jury.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can call the national 24-hour Rape Crisis Helpline at 1800-77 8888, access text service and webchat options at drcc.ie/services/helpline/, or visit Rape Crisis Help. 

In the case of an emergency, always dial 999/112. 

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