Belfast Telegraph

I knew it was wrong but I loved him, says alleged Francis McPeake abuse victim

BY Ashleigh McDonald

A member of one of Ireland's most famous musical families who is accused of abusing a 15-year-old schoolgirl told her he had cancer and couldn't get her pregnant, a jury has been told.

Francis McPeake – whose family is well known in traditional Irish music circles – is standing trial at Belfast Crown Court where he is denies 12 counts of sexually abusing the teenager in 2009 and 2010.

The 72-year-old, who was aged around 67 at the time of the alleged offences, has told police she was "attempting to destroy" his life.

The complainant, now aged 20, told the jury she "looked up" to McPeake, and how the musician was a "role model" to her.

McPeake, formerly of Eliza Street Close in the Markets area of Belfast, met the schoolgirl around 2008 at a music event.

In the summer of 2009 they both attended a music festival in the Republic, during which she claims he kissed her and first touched her sexually. When they returned from the trip, the girl claims she and McPeake began meeting and had sex "every time we were alone".

Crown prosecutor Charles MacCreanor said it was the Crown's case that other sexual activity between McPeake and the schoolgirl occurred in his car, and on one occasion while her friend was present.

The court was told that she alleged that when they had sex for the first time, McPeake expressed concerns about someone finding out as he had a lot to lose, but he loved her. She also claimed they had unprotected sex after McPeake told her he had cancer which made him impotent.

The jury also heard that the woman claims that sex took place on several occasions in a music workshop in Belfast.

The woman told the jury yesterday that after they started the relationship, she "knew it was wrong, but in my eyes I couldn't see it being wrong. I had feelings for him. I loved him".

She said the relationship ended after her family confronted McPeake over rumours about him and the then-schoolgirl.

She said they continued to meet but she was sick of "lying, cheating and hiding". Telling the jury that when she broke up with McPeake "to me he was everything", the complainant said: "My head was all over the place. I was hurt, I was crying, I still wanted to be with him but I knew that I couldn't."

The girl went to police in December 2012, and McPeake voluntarily attended for interview in spring 2013. His solicitor read out a statement on his behalf, stating: "I have never done anything with this child." McPeake branded her allegations as false and malicious and added: "She is attempting to destroy my life."

He then replied "no comment" to questions put to him during interviews.

Under cross-examination from McPeake's barrister, the woman admitted regularly lying to her mother and other relatives about the relationship, saying she didn't like doing it.

The defence barrister said to her: "They were not lies, nothing was going on... that's the defendent's case, that there was no sexual contact between you and him."

She replied: "There was. I was in a relationship with him."

At hearing.

Belfast Telegraph


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