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NSPCC demands investigation over paedophile still free after 30 years

By Allan Preston

Child abuse should be investigated no matter how much time has passed the NSPCC has said, after it emerged that a self-confessed paedophile from Northern Ireland has escaped punishment for over 30 years.

Henry Clarke (75) admitted abusing three boys at three different Northern Ireland care homes in the early 1960s and 1970s.

Despite confessing two of his crimes to the RUC in 1985, he was allowed to leave the country to start a new life in Canada.

He later wrote to the RUC to confess the third case of abuse that took place at a Boys' Brigade camp in Newcastle, Co Down.

BBC reporter Kevin Magee travelled to Canada to confront Clarke, who again admitted his crimes and agreed to an interview.

He admitted abusing one boy after he took him out of a care home, brought him home and introduced him to his parents.

"I remember it quite well. I saw an opportunity and I took it," he said.

"It would have been in the mid-80s.

"We were on holiday in Belfast and two detectives from the RUC came to talk with me and on that day I admitted to them what I had done."

Regarding his later confession by letter, he said: "When I was in Northern Ireland, I omitted to mention a boy that I had interfered with sexually and I wanted to deal with everything, and so I wrote to them."

In Canada, Clarke trained as a pastor and went on to work in four churches.

"I realised at that time that my behaviour was wrong and that there were consequences, and I believed that I would probably finish up going to prison or something of that nature, but that there would be consequences," he said.

One of Clarke's victims was only 12 when he was abused.

After being tracked down, the victim told the BBC he has never been able to leave his ordeal in the past.

"Your life is hell," he said.

"People say you'll forget about it, but you never forget about it.

"I am coming 61 and I still have the nightmares.

"He was in his own mother and father's house.

"And for him to get into bed beside me, and do what he did. He shouldn't even have got to Canada. He should be in hell.

"Why should I be in hell on my own and I was the victim?"

Yesterday a NSPCC Northern Ireland spokeswoman responded to the shocking revelations.

"Child abuse has devastating and lifelong consequences which last long into adulthood, and any information relating to the abuse of a child should be thoroughly investigated regardless of how long ago it took place," the charity spokeswoman said.

"Only then will victims get the support they need to rebuild and move on with their lives.

"We would urge anyone who has suffered abuse or who is concerned about a child to speak out.

"They can contact the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000, 24 hours a day seven days a week. Children can also contact Childline on 0800 1111 or at www.childline.org.uk."

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