Former archbishop denies deal allegations

Cleric suing RTÉ for defamation over ‘paedophile’ allegations

A former Catholic Archbishop has denied in the High Court he asked a woman in early 2009 to sign a handwritten “binding agreement”, which referred to paying her €100,000, in an effort to get her to withdraw complaints against him.

Dolores Atwood had made a formal complaint of child sexual abuse against Richard Burke to his order, the Kiltegan Fathers, in late 2008, the High Court heard. She also wrote to the Vatican in March 2008 and, in 2005, phoned Mr Burke’s order anonymously alleging he was having relations with women.

Mr Burke denies he had sex with Ms Atwood when she was 14 and insists they first had sex in autumn 1989 when she was 20 and he was 40. He alleges he was defamed in an RTÉ Prime Time Investigates programme of March 23, 2011, which, he claims, wrongly depicted him as a paedophile.

Paul O’Higgins, counsel for RTÉ, said the station denies the programme meant Mr Burke was a paedophile and contends it meant Mr Burke had sexually molested Ms Atwood when she was a 13 year old girl and slept with her when she was aged 14.

In continuing cross-examination, Mr Burke was presented by counsel with a handwritten document which stated it was a “binding agreement” between Dolores Wasalathu Atwood and Richard Anthony Burke. Mr Burke said he did not remember the document but agreed it was his handwriting.

The document stated the terms of the agreement included he was to give to Ms Atwood “what she considers to belong to her €100,000” and she, for the remainder of her life on Earth, would never again ask or demand any more money from him.

It stated Ms Atwood agreed she would never share with any party “deeply personal” information shared by Mr Burke with her on a basis of “complete trust” and that all invidivuals mentioned “in that sharing” will “never ever be contacted because the sharing was essentially about Richard and the identification of third parties”.

Mr O’Higgins said Ms Atwood would say she was given that document after Mr Burke visited Rome in February 2009 and after his superiors asked him to “make restitution” to her. She would say she would sign it and the “sticking point” was she wanted Mr Burke to leave Africa but he said he was not leaving.

She would say the document was an effort to get her to withdraw her complaint and let him stay in Africa but she declined to sign it, counsel said.

Earlier, Mr Burke said he had recorded calls made to him from Canada in November 2007, where Ms Atwood moved after marrying a Canadian, Chris Atwood, in 1995. He recorded them because he was traumatised after Ms Atwood had, during a call on November 7, 2007, accused him for the first time of being a “paedophile”.

The jury heard Mr Burke recorded two phone calls made to him by Mr Atwood, one on November 8, 2007, and the second about a week later. Mr Burke agreed, during the calls, he spoke of having an intimate relationship with Ms Atwood “22 to 23 years ago”, which would have been 1984 and 1985. Counsel said Ms Atwood, born in August 1969, would have been 15 in August 1984.

The case continues.

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