One of Ireland's leading traditional musicians has told a court he could never have had sex with the 15-year-old girl he is accused of abusing, as he was recovering from prostate cancer.
Francis McPeake, formerly of Eliza Street Close in the Markets area of Belfast, flatly denied that any sexual activity took place between him and the schoolgirl.
The young woman, who is now aged 20, claimed that she embarked on a relationship with McPeake in 2009 and that they had sex on numerous occasions.
Earlier this week, she told the jury at Belfast Crown Court that her and McPeake had sex and engaged in other sexual activity during trips to music events in the Republic, in a music school, at a workshop and in his car.
Giving evidence during the fourth day of the trial, McPeake told the jury that he was treated for prostate cancer in 2004, and the medical treatment included radiotherapy.
Asked about the after-effects of the treatment, a clearly embarrassed McPeake explained that he had physical difficulties sexually.
He told the court that due to these problems in the aftermath of the cancer treatment, he had to "plan" sex with his wife around his medication.
When he was asked by his barrister whether or not he had sex with the girl "as she has described", McPeake answered: "Never in my life, no."
When asked if he ever had "spontaneous sex" with the girl, he answered: "That is impossible."
McPeake, who was aged 67 and 68 at the time of the alleged offences, flatly denied each allegation put to him regarding a sexual relationship with the then teenager. Acknowledging that he gave her lifts to and from music lessons, McPeake said she talked to him about problems at home and at school and that she was depressed and had expressed suicidal tendencies.
The pensioner told the court: "I went out of my way to help that child."
He told the jury that when she talked about killing herself "I believed every word that she said. I believed that in my heart she would have done herself harm."
McPeake and the complainant both attended a trip across the border in the autumn of 2009 – a time she claims they were in a relationship. When he was asked if she told him she might be pregnant during that trip, he told the court: "That is a total lie."
As he refuted each and every allegation the girl made, both to police and in front of the jury, McPeake was once again asked if he had ever had intercourse or any other sexual activity with her. He answered by telling the court: "Never, never. No, good Lord, no." At hearing.