Belfast Telegraph

Light being shone at last on sickening abuse that is Fermanagh's dark secret

How victims of a decades-old paedophile ring are speaking out in hope they can finally get justice

The hearse leaving the scene at Killygreen, Belcoo, following the discovery of the remains of sex abuser David Sullivan
The hearse leaving the scene at Killygreen, Belcoo, following the discovery of the remains of sex abuser David Sullivan
Paedophile David Sullivan’s body was found in a bog in 2001

By Rodney Edwards

It was February 3, 2001 as police in white suits and masks crawled on their hands and knees in the dirt, desperately searching for bits of his body and clues to the identity of his killer.

A windswept, isolated bog near Belcoo in Co Fermanagh was a lonely place to die, but David Sullivan was a lonely man, a pitiful recluse.

The hearse carried the 51-year-old's remains through the police cordon around the crime scene near the border. There was no coffin, just a dark red vinyl body bag with a brass zip. A poignant and pathetic sight for a man who had already been dying from Parkinson's disease.

His grisly remains were found almost a year-and-a-half after he had gone missing from his self-contained flat in Enniskillen. The death of the Ulsterbus driver was horrific, but his time on Earth was even more sinister.

There were always sordid allegations when he was alive about sexual impropriety, including his possible links with local businessmen and professional people to a suspected paedophile ring in Enniskillen. Almost 20 years on, Sullivan's killer has never been found but the speculation still lingers - he was likely killed in a murder motivated by revenge.

It is only now, all these years later, that the true extent of his depravity can be revealed after one of his victims bravely spoke to The Impartial Reporter newspaper this week.

'John' (not his real name) told the Fermanagh newspaper that chain-smoking Sullivan sexually abused him on his school bus 12 times when he was a boy, abuse that would last for almost five years. It is the first time anyone has spoken about the wickedness committed by a man who was never prosecuted.

The notorious paedophile first raped him on his school bus when he was 12, pouncing on him in a layby near Lisnaskea. The internal lights were switched off as he abused him before the sun had even risen that cold, dark winter morning.

"I can do what I want," he chillingly told his young victim, looking over his thick glasses. And he did. He got away with abusing this victim and potentially dozens of other victims for years.

Long before his murder Sullivan, a youth leader with both St Macartin's Cathedral Youth Club and the Duke of Westminster High School's Youth Club in Ballinamallard, had already become a Jekyll and Hyde character. He spent his days driving for Ulsterbus and his nights in the company of teenage boys and criminals.

He played snooker with his friends at the Wellington Snooker Club on Rossorry Church Road and allowed children to use his flat for underage sex.

Sullivan spent much of his time driving his white, specially adapted Hyundai on the roads at all hours. He was something of a nomad, a creature of the night who never slept for more than four hours. He had no siblings, just an elderly mother, and his deceased father had been the highly respected former principal of the Model Primary School.

When Sullivan was off work he could be found driving at all hours in search of his next victim.

"You really needed to have your wits about you then," said John.

"He would appear from anywhere and at any time. It was like a game of cat and mouse. He would have taken the first victim he found. That was me too many times."

On one occasion an unshaven Sullivan tried to force John to get into his car, and when the teenager refused he sped off, almost crashing into traffic.

About 15 minutes later another man driving a van pulled up claiming that John's uncle had asked him to collect him.

"I was told to get into the van. It never dawned on me what was going to happen until he asked me to pull back the floor mat, where he had a load of pornographic magazines."

John, who had just escaped the clutches of one monster, had fallen into the hands of another.

"I was abused there and then. The irony was cruel. I finally stood up to Sullivan only to be met by another," he said.

"There was no way he would have known about me had it not been for Sullivan.

"That is why I am convinced a paedophile ring was in operation."

Teenage boys were regularly seen entering and leaving Sullivan's flat. Police are convinced too that he was involved with businessmen and professionals in a paedophile ring, shocking revelations that were first revealed by The Impartial Reporter. These men were well-known people, including some in positions of trust, who probably thought their dirty secrets would never be unearthed.

Since our first story was published a few weeks ago many victims have come forward to tell of their experiences.

There's the man who was raped by multiple men in toilets in Enniskillen from February 1987, beginning when he was 12 years old.

"I came outside and was actually physically sick on the floor. I wasn't really sure what had just happened to me.

"In that alleyway there was nobody and those toilets were empty, only for those men, and I would turn up and then I started seeing other boys there that I would've been at school with," he said.

Police closed an investigation into his clams due to a "lack of evidence". He turned to alcohol and drugs and has suffered with his mental health ever since.

Then there's the man who revealed how his attacker, a family friend and prominent businessman, made him watch pornography before sexually abusing him while his wife and children were on holiday.

"I couldn't believe it, I covered my face and went to the place in my mind I had trained myself to go to. I just wanted my mum to come and save me but I was entrapped in something I didn't want to admit I even knew about," said Brian (not his real name). On another occasion the abuser took him to a country lane near Devenish Island and raped him. He was 14.

Five years ago he went to the PSNI, but his case was dropped by the Public Prosecution Service due to a "lack of evidence".

Then a woman whose life spiralled out of control after she was repeatedly raped by her brother 30 years ago recalled the horrifying moment she discovered her son was also abused by the same man.

Karen (not her real name) recalls when it started, where it took place, she even remembers the colour of the bedsheets. Brown. Everything was brown almost 40 years ago.

Her brother was 15 at the time, she was 11.

"I can still see the big room, the double bed, the single bed. I can remember the brown bedspread, brown blankets, the walls were papered but there was one wall that had gloss paint. There was one window with brown curtains and a net curtain. The carpet was brown as well.

"And then it all started. I was 11 when my brother called me into his bedroom to give me a cigarette. Then asked me to touch him," said Karen.

She claims she knows of up to nine other victims of the same man and says when both she and her son reported the abuse to police in 2013 and 2014 the cases were dropped, again, due to "insufficient evidence".

"It eats away at you like a cancer. Just imagine your heart being ripped from your chest and getting physically sick and not knowing where to turn when your own child tells you they were abused by the same person," she said.

This is a significant moment in Fermanagh as we delve deeper and deeper into a murky past that saw innocent children raped by evil men again and again and again and were never brought before the courts or, in Sullivan's case, ended up rotting in an Irish bog.

There are many questions now for the authorities, particularly the police.

Who murdered David Sullivan? Who would have wanted to kill a pathetic, lonely man already dying?

Why was Sullivan allowed to get away with abusing schoolboys? Why was he never prosecuted for the litany of abuse he carried out as a bus driver? Why was his murder never solved? What precisely was uncovered during the investigation into his murder? Were claims of a paedophile ring properly investigated? Were the businessmen and professional people ever arrested and questioned? If not, why not? And when will victims of such wickedness get justice?

Whatever was going on three decades ago, however evil, it is clear that Sullivan and his associates were at the heart of it.

This week the PSNI's public prosecution branch offered to meet with the sex abuse victims who have been coming forward to our newspaper in recent weeks. In a statement, Detective Chief Superintendent Paula Hilman said: "I am aware of the coverage relating to historic child sexual abuse cases covered by The Impartial Reporter in recent weeks.

"I would like to offer to meet with any of these victims to explore these incidents further."

Senior members of the PSNI are to be challenged by the Policing Board on this matter, while Chief Constable George Hamilton has taken a personal interest in these revelations.

In a statement, Translink said that in view of the "extremely serious matters" raised by our reports it had contacted the PSNI and was in the process of informing the educational authorities and other appropriate bodies about the claims.

Thanks to the courage of victims speaking to The Impartial Reporter a spotlight has been shone on a dark past and now these brave men and women are finally being listened to.

They have lived with the painful memories of their innocence being taken away in the most despicable way and now they need justice, they need closure.

And their abusers, most of whom are now pensioners, will soon discover that the past has come back to haunt them.

I know, as a journalist, I am only scratching the surface.

Rodney Edwards is deputy editor of The Impartial Reporter and can be contacted by email on redwards@impartialreporter.com

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