Belfast Telegraph

Abuse accused Francis McPeake takes to the stand to brand woman's claims against him as lies

By Ashleigh McDonald

Traditional Irish musician Francis McPeake has vehemently denied sexually abusing a 15-year-old schoolgirl, branding her allegations against him as lies.

The father-of-two, who is part of the world-famous McPeake musical dynasty, was called to the witness box at Belfast Crown Court, where he is currently standing trial on 12 sexual offences including sexual activity with a child.

The 72-year-old, from Eliza Street Close in Belfast, was firstly questioned about his musical family.

The pensioner told the jury of six men and six women that the McPeake family have played the length and breadth of Ireland as well as the UK, Holland, Moscow, New York and other areas of the US. He was questioned by his barrister John Kearney QC about his role as a music teacher, with McPeake responding that he had tutored "about 5,000 children" since he began teaching music in 1977.

McPeake was then questioned about his health, and the court heard that he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2004, for which he received radiotherapy treatment.

This treatment, he said, had impacted on his sexual capacity and resulted in him having difficulties with erections and ejaculation.

When he was asked by Mr Kearney: "Did you have difficulties with your sexual capacity prior to having the cancer and receiving radiotherapy," McPeake said: "No, I had no problems before the treatment."

He also revealed that because of difficulties with achieving and maintaining an erection, he took Viagra before making love to his wife.

The woman who claimed she became involved in a sexual relationship with McPeake when she was aged 15 has alleged they engaged in spontaneous sex at several locations including the McPeake School of Music in the centre of Belfast.

She claimed the sexual relationship commenced in July 2009 during a cross-border trip and continued into 2010.

During her earlier testimony, a defence lawyer questioned the woman about her claims of sexual activity on two cross-border trips as well as alleged incidents she said occurred at the McPeake School of Music in Belfast, at another music workshop in the city, and in his car.

Telling the jury it was Mr McPeake's case there was no sexual activity, the lawyer accused the woman of being a disruptive influence during one of the cross-border trips, where she made a nuisance of herself and had to be chastised by Mr McPeake for her bad behaviour.

This suggestion was rejected by the woman, who said that at that time they were in a relationship and she was in love with him. Breaking down in tears, the woman said she was "angry and hurt" about what Mr McPeake had done.

She said: "All I wanted was an apology, to say he was sorry and that he was wrong.

"I just wanted an apology from him."

Her claims have been consistently refuted by McPeake, who branded each of her allegations as lies.

When he was asked yesterday about incidents of alleged sexual activity that the now 20-year-old claims took place, McPeake replied by saying "that's a lie".

Each time he was asked about a specific incident, he made the same response.

The trial continues.

Belfast Telegraph

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