By Isabel Hayes
A UK man convicted of sexually abusing two girls targeted them when they were being neglected by their mother and moved the family to Ireland to avoid detection, a Dublin court has heard.
The 37-year-old man was found guilty by a jury of three counts of rape and eight counts of sexually assaulting the two girls at addresses in Dublin and Louth between December 3, 2010 and March 10, 2011 when they were aged 10 and 12 years old.
Following a 12-week Central Criminal Court trial which started in January, the jury took just three hours to return the unanimous verdicts last month. He cannot be named to protect the identity of his victims.
The man fled to Chile in 2011. He was extradited from the United States in 2014 after gardaí heard he was planning to fly to Florida for a business trip.
The older victim, now aged 19, said she was treated like “a princess by day and abused by night”, the court heard.
She is “profoundly angry” at her mother, who she believes knew exactly what was going on and who she believes was deliberately “pimping” out the girls so she could live a carefree life.
At the man's sentence hearing today the court heard the girls were living with their mother and younger siblings in the UK. Their mother was “disinterested and unengaged” and neglected her children, Pauline Walley SC, told the court.
The man, who was a family friend, came into their lives in early 2010 and shortly afterwards, the family moved into his house in a nearby upmarket area.
He showered the children with gifts, holidays and trips to theme parks. The eldest girl was sent to a private school and took horse-riding lessons, Detective Garda Michael Scanlon told the court.
UK social services had already been heavily involved with the mother and children and they continued to monitor the situation after the family moved to the man's home.
They became increasingly concerned that the man had daily control of the children and appeared to be involved in their “physical grooming”.
The trial heard the man was sexually abusing the older girl at this stage, but not the younger girl.
In November 2011, when UK social services ramped up their intervention with the family, the family left the jurisdiction “under the control” of the man and moved to Louth, Det Gda Scanlon said.
The court heard the mother was often absent from the family home, travelling to the UK or other parts of Ireland. The man regularly sexually assaulted both girls in bed at night.
Det Gda Scanlon said that in December 2010, the man and the older girl travelled to Dublin and got caught up in the snowy weather at the time. They ended up staying the night in a hotel and the man sexually assaulted and raped the girl in the room that night.
Later that night, when the girl was asleep, local gardaí called to the room to check up on her. This was due to a notification in the system from UK social services, the court heard.
They found nothing untoward, saw that the girl was asleep and left. Afterwards, the man woke the girl up and sexually assaulted her again.
There was a delay in communication between UK and Irish social services, with Irish social services getting involved with the family in January 2011. Teachers also became concerned when they saw the man kissing the youngest girl on the lips a number of times.
In March 2011, the man told a social worker that he wasn't in a relationship with the children's mother. The mother was away at the time and social workers became “increasingly concerned” about her absences and the control the man had over the children.
Shortly afterwards, the alarm was raised when the man took the children out of the jurisdiction while their mother was in hospital, the court heard. The mother had previously refused to allow the children to be placed in voluntary care while she was in hospital and it later emerged that she told the man to take the children.
The children were returned to Ireland and placed immediately in foster care, where they have remained ever since. Their mother is facing prosecution in relation to her care of the children.
Shortly after entering care, the girls disclosed the abuse to their foster parents, who are extremely experienced and caring, the court heard.
After the man was extradited, he was released on bail for some time and lived in Dublin, where he studied at third-level. He has been in custody since the trial. He has no previous convictions.
His two victims, now aged 17 and 19, read out victim impact statements in court. Both victims described how their family was divided and torn apart by the abuse, how their lives were upended and how they had to deal with the trauma of the abuse far away from their extended family and friends.
The younger girl said she thought the man was her “saviour” when he improved their lives so materially. “Then I learned this was at a cost,” she said.
She said she used to consider throwing herself off a balcony to end things and has struggled with an eating disorder as a result of the abuse.
The older girl said the man came into her life at a time when she was extremely vulnerable. She said she thought he was her “hero” and then couldn't believe what he did to her at night. She said she lived in denial for a long time.
“In my childish brain, I thought that if I didn't think about the monster in the bed, then it couldn't hurt me,” she said.
She said the man continues to torment her memories and fears she will never be able to have a proper relationship with a man. She struggles with self-harm, anxiety and panic attacks.
She said the 12-week trial was extremely traumatic. “There was no chance of me ever coming out of this unscathed,” she said.
The matter will return to court on June 20, when a plea of mitigation will be heard.