Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland woman's ordeal after sex assault at funeral

Oonagh Hughes has waived her right to anonymity
Oonagh Hughes has waived her right to anonymity
Convicted: John Shivers
Leona O'Neill

By Leona O'Neill

A woman who was sexually assaulted at her father-in-law's funeral has spoken of the stress, trauma and broken family relationships left in the wake of the attack and subsequent court case.

Oonagh Hughes waived her right to anonymity to speak out following the sentencing of her attacker on Tuesday.

The 51-year-old, who lives in Castledawson with her husband Kevin and their two sons and two daughters, said the case has been a "nightmare".

Earlier this week John Shivers (56), from Grange Park in Magherafelt, was handed 220 hours of community service after being convicted of sexual assault.

The attack on Mrs Hughes happened in September 2016 at Moyola Golf Club in Castledawson after mourners at her father-in-law's funeral gathered to remember him.

"The incident happened after my father-in-law passed away," she said.

"He had died from COPD. We had just been in America celebrating our wedding anniversary and when we came home he had been admitted to hospital.

"Six weeks later he died in Antrim Hospital.

"We were very close and we were devastated."

Recalling her ordeal, she added: "After we buried him we went back to the golf club.

"John Shivers was there with his wife, who he then brought home, and returned to the club. He was talking to my brother-in-law.

"He came over and sat beside me and put his leg between my legs and started running his hand up and down my legs. I asked him what he thought he was doing, that I was a happily married woman.

"He said some very crude and dirty things to me and continued on. There were people milling around. I froze, I couldn't even speak at all.

"My daughter, who was only 21 years old at the time, saw him and she was enraged. And that is when all hell broke loose, there was an argument.

"At that stage, when people had seen that my tights had been ripped, some people came over and told me to shut my mouth and stop screaming, that nothing had happened. Some family members took John Shivers out and took him home safely.

"We contacted the police and they came out and took my clothes and arrested him."

Shivers denied that he sexually assaulted Mrs Hughes or had touched her at all.

She added: "When the DNA results came in to say that 75% of the DNA around the tear in my tights was his, he still maintained his innocence throughout and put our family through a total and utter nightmare of an ordeal."

It took a huge toll on Mrs Hughes's family and her health.

"I took a severe rash and an anaphylactic shock because of the stress," she added. "I also took diverticulitis in the bowel. That all meant that I had to take medication which in turn meant that I couldn't go to work for seven months and I couldn't drive.

"I lost the power of my legs for a period of time. I couldn't speak, it was as if I took some kind of stroke. That was all due to severe stress and trauma.

"My daughter was on a working holiday in Australia and she had to keep in contact with the police the whole way through her time away, which led to fractured relationships with myself and her.

"She was supposed to be away on a trip of a lifetime as a 21-year-old and this hung over her like a black cloud the whole time.

"I felt guilty having to mention it. It seemed like every conversation was about a court case or video-link. I hope that that relationship will repair now that this is all done."

Mrs Hughes said she had attended counselling with her husband for over two years since it happened, and this had helped.

But she said the ripples of the incident are still being felt today.

"In the first fortnight after it happened I lost a stone in weight. Then I started to comfort eat and put on around two stone," she added.

"I couldn't sleep at night.

"I had no concentration. I was afraid of people. I took panic attacks.

"I couldn't be beside a man except my husband for months and months.

"My whole confidence was taken away from me. It was stolen."

Mrs Hughes said she wanted to speak out to ensure that what happened to her does not happen to any other woman and that men realise that women need to be respected.

"I feel vindicated. I feel that the newspapers have given me a voice," she added.

"All I ever wanted to do was to stop him doing this to anyone else."

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