Belfast Telegraph

Shaking and crying, a little girl escaped the clutches of a paedophile... four years on, her family have been devastated by his 'pathetic' sentence

By Deborah McAleese

It was every parent's nightmare come true. A loving mother had gone to collect her 10-year-old daughter from a church group near to the family home, only to discover the little girl was nowhere to be found.

The next hour was the most terrifying of her life, frantically searching for her daughter.

As panic turned to fear, unwelcome thoughts of notorious cases where young schoolchildren had been kidnapped and murdered tortured the mother of six as she ran from street to street in Belfast screaming her daughter's name.

An hour after the alarm had first been raised, her daughter, shaking and crying, returned home, having fled from the clutches of her abductor – a paedophile called Colin Shaw.

She had been sexually assaulted by him.

Almost four years and several court trials later, life for the young child and her family remains a nightmare, with Shaw last week having walked free from jail, just hours after being sentenced to two years imprisonment for child abduction, sexually assaulting a child and sexually grooming a child.

"It was a Wednesday evening in September 2009 and my daughter was just outside at the top of the street with her chums.

"She was on her way to a church group at the church which is right by our house," said the woman, who does not want to be named to protect the identity of her daughter.

"I walked over at 8.30pm to collect her, but she wasn't there. They told me she hadn't turned up that evening.

"I started panicking and asked some of the kids if they knew where she was and they told me she had gone away with some man.

"I felt sick to my stomach."

"I got straight on the phone to the police and everyone on the street and neighbouring streets were out searching for her.

"All I could think about was that man Black (Robert Black who murdered Ballinderry school-girl Jennifer Cardy 30 years ago). You always hear these terrible stories, but never think it would happen to you.

"About an hour later I was talking to the police and we saw her at the top of the street.

"She was shaking and crying. I asked her where she had been and she said with a man called Colin Shaw. The police officer appeared to recognise the name immediately".

It emerged that Shaw had befriended the child over several weeks while she was out playing with friends and had plied her with alcohol and cigarettes.

On the evening she disappeared, he had taken her to the Ozone leisure complex in Belfast where he sexually assaulted her.

Police searched Shaw's east Belfast home and discovered a map with every nursery, primary and secondary school in the area circled, as well as a poem written about a girl with the same name as his victim.

He was charged with abduction, grooming and sexual assault and his victim bravely agreed to give evidence against him in court.

Much to his victim's distress, several trials had to be stopped and restarted due to legal issues. It was not until November last year that he was finally found guilty by a jury.

And it took the courts until last week to finally sentence Shaw for his crimes.

But rather than the justice they had hoped for, his young victim, who is now 13, and her family have been left devastated by the "pathetic" sentence imposed by the court.

Shaw was sentenced to two years' imprisonment and four years out on licence. Having spent two years on remand awaiting trial he was released from custody on the day that he was sentenced.

"I just felt sick when I heard. My daughter was sitting beside me when we were told about the pathetic sentence and then that he was getting out. She hasn't stopped crying since and hasn't left the house. She has also started self-harming," the child's mother said.

She added: "What justice is that? What punishment is that? We just feel helpless. We put our faith in the justice system, but from the very beginning the justice system looked after Shaw, not our daughter."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph