Tweed in jail after abusing children

Former Irish rugby international David Tweed was behind bars last night after a jury found him guilty of child sex abuse.

The 53-year-old from Ballymena, Co Antrim, was convicted of 13 counts of indecent assault, gross indecency with a child, and inciting gross indecency with a child.

The railway supervisor, who is also a Ballymena councillor, stood trial at Antrim Crown Court accused of sexually abusing two girls over an eight-year period from 1988.

Judge Alistair Devlin said: “The offences with which you are charged are not only vile and wicked, they particularly disturbing and distasteful crimes.”

Remanding Tweed in custody, Judge Devlin said the judiciary treated such crimes seriously.

The jury returned guilty verdicts on 10 charges including indecent assault and gross indecency and Tweed was taken into custody. The jury later returned with three further guilty verdicts.

Tweed appeared nervous, fixed his collar, and shook his head throughout the proceedings.

He stood in the dock with his hands clasped tightly and gasped as the final three guilty verdicts were read out before being led away by prison staff. Two women who had supported Tweed throughout the hearing wiped away tears.

He was cleared of one count of indecent assault.

The father of four, who also has two stepchildren, denied anything improper had happened with the girls, who are now adults.

This was the second time Tweed faced child sex abuse allegations.

In 2009, a jury unanimously acquitted him of 10 counts of sex abuse against two different young girls.

Tweed was capped four times for Ireland. He made his debut against France in the 1995 Five Nations competition and played in the Rugby World Cup in South Africa.

He was also a prominent Ulster Rugby player, with more than 30 appearances in the 1980s and 1990s.

His defence barrister, Laurence McCrudden, had claimed Tweed was the victim of a conspiracy.

However, Laura Ievers, prosecuting, in her closing speech argued that Tweed was able to easily hide the abuse because of his position in society.

She said: “He was a big, powerful man, charisma, sporting prowess — the perfect veil to hide behind and the ultimate in living a lie.”

Ms Ievers said the defence had clutched at straws to try to explain the inexplicable.

In one incident, it was claimed, Tweed performed oral sex on one of the girls when she was of primary school age. It was also claimed Tweed had inappropriately touched both girls.

There was no application for bail and sentencing is due to take place next year.

Outside the court, the victims and their family declined to comment.

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