Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland restaurant boss accused of sex assault on girl (8) tried to buy off family with £20k bribe, court hears

By Alan Erwin

A restaurant boss accused of sexually assaulting an eight-year-old girl was allegedly involved in trying to "buy off" her family with a £20,000 bribe, the High Court has heard.

The child's father claims he was also told ownership of a £50,000 business would be signed over to him if the complaint against Thomas Mathew was dropped, prosecutors said.

Details emerged as Mathew, 62, was granted bail on charges connected to an alleged incident in Ballymoney, Co Antrim last month.

The defendant, of Old Church Crescent in Clondalkin, Co Dublin, denies counts of sexually assaulting a child and inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.

Mathew, who owns restaurants in Ballymoney and Newry, allegedly touched the girl and repeatedly asked her to kiss him during an encounter on February 24.

Police were then informed that the child's father was contacted by an associate of Mathew after he was arrested, the court heard.

Prosecution counsel Kate McKay said: "It was alleged by him that he was told the applicant would give him £20,000 in cash and sign over the ownership of a business valued at £50,000 if the allegation by his young daughter was not pursued."

CCTV footage from a custody suite at Coleraine Police Station depicts Mathew asking his associate to speak to the family in an attempt to reach a settlement, Mrs McKay contended.

The accused, who was born in India but now has Irish nationality, has not been charged with any offences linked to the attempted bribe allegations.

He has made a counter-claim that he was being blackmailed for money to stop the sexual assault complaint being made.

During interviews Mathew admitted tickling the girl but insisted there had been no sexual aspect.

Defence counsel told the court his client was well-known to the child and was acting as a baby-sitter while her father was at work.

"Close physical contact would not be unusual between them," the lawyer said.

Following submissions Lord Justice Higgins said the case "raised the suspicion of an attempt to pervert the course of justice by buying off the complaint".

He ruled, however, that Mathew can be bailed to hostel accommodation in Portstewart once his Irish passport is surrendered and a £20,000 cash surety is lodged.

The judge also ordered: "He is not to enter Ballymoney and is to have no contact with the complainant or any member of her family, either directly or indirectly."

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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