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Ex-Archbishop says woman was 20 when they had 'inappropriate' sex in Nigeria

By Tim Healy

Published 27/06/2015

Law theme, mallet of judge, wooden gavel
Law theme, mallet of judge, wooden gavel

A former Catholic Archbishop has told the High Court in Dublin he had an "inappropriate" sexual relationship with a woman in Nigeria which began in 1989 when she was aged 20 and he was 40.

Co Tipperary-born Richard Burke (66), ordained a priest in 1975, said he felt "uneasy" by the demeanour, which "gave an impression of being flirtatious" of then 20-year-old Dolores Atwood when she came unexpectedly to his private apartment in the Nigerian city of Warri in 1989.

Mr Burke was being cross-examined in his continuing action alleging defamation in RTE's May 2011 Prime Time Investigates: Mission to Prey programme.

Mr Burke, a former Archbishop of Benin, Nigeria, alleges it wrongly depicted him as a paedophile. RTE denies defamation.

He told the court he left her in the room to see if he could find a "chaperone" but he later returned alone to the room "in turmoil".

Her "smile, eyes, expression suggested something to me", indicated she "wanted to be intimate with me" and he felt "flattered".

After she made an "embracing gesture", he responded he would "accept her invitation" and they went to his bedroom where they "made love".

He later felt a mix of confusion and guilt, knew what had happened was wrong because he was a priest with a commitment to celibacy, he said.

Asked by Paul O'Higgins SC, for RTE, was there any other reason, he said it was also inappropriate because he was twice her age.

There was no intimacy of any description between them before autumn 1989 and he had not had sexual thoughts about her, he said.

In direct examination, Mr Burke said Ms Atwood sought €200,000 from him in 2009 after he had paid her some €176,000 over a number of years.

He felt "terrorised" by Ms Atwood and feared she would disclose their sexual relationship.

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