Belfast Telegraph

Pensioner cleared of all 24 charges of historic sex abuse against girls

By Staff Reporter

A Co Tyrone pensioner has been unanimously cleared of multiple historical sex offences against four female family members.

The man, aged in his 80s, had always insisted the claims were "a tissue of lies".

Following a nine-day trial at Dungannon Crown Court in which all charges were denied from the outset, the jury returned not guilty verdicts in relation to all 24 allegations.

The man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the complainants, was accused of 22 counts of indecent assault and single counts each of gross indecency with a child and inciting gross indecency with a child.

The offences were alleged to have occurred on various dates between March 1984 and April 1996.

It was the prosecution case that the man would visit the complainants' family home with his wife, who would have tea with their mother downstairs.

It was alleged he would go upstairs to the girls' bedrooms.

In their evidence, the complainants claimed he would grab them and kiss them on the face.

They claimed he would lie on top of them or press them against a wall while allegedly restraining their hands with his own above their heads so they could not push him away.

The man's interviews with police, in which he emphatically denied any such activity had ever occurred and demanded a lie detector test, were read out to the court.

While giving evidence in the witness box, he repeated his rejection of the claims, which he said he found shocking.

He recalled going to the girls' family home with his wife, usually one evening a week after he came home from work.

But he refuted ever being in their bedrooms, simulating sex, or kissing them. He confirmed he would go upstairs to use the toilet on occasions when at the house but was adamant he never entered any other room.

The man rejected suggestions he would be there for hours, instead saying he and his wife visited for "half-an-hour, maximum" .

He said he never went to the house alone and was always accompanied by his wife.

Under cross-examination, the man said: "I maintain it is 100% lies. It is total fabrication, total fantasy. It's a tissue of lies."

He accepted he may on occasion have hugged the alleged victims, or patted them on the head, as a comfort, particularly if they'd hurt themselves or were upset - exactly as he would have done with his own children.

However, he categorically refuted any suggestions of kissing or playing games which involved tickling and said he didn't do anything which could have been misread by the complainants.

With the case concluded, the jury retired for deliberations, before returning not guilty verdicts on all counts.

Judge Paul Ramsey QC told the former accused: "You are free to go."

After leaving the dock, the man was met by his wife and other family members who had attended every day of the trial.

Belfast Telegraph

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