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Ulster teen rape victim breaks his silence

By Claire McNeilly

A young Ulsterman today - on his 16th birthday - took the immensely brave step to waive his right to anonymity to expose the sick paedophile who brutally raped him.

Stephen Graham, from Belfast, who was just 13 when a rapist subjected him to a horrific sexual assault in April 2005, said he wanted to scream when he heard that his attacker will serve only half of his 13-year sentence under Northern Ireland's controversial remission laws.

But today - with the support of his family - the teenager said he felt compelled to speak out to encourage others to come forward - and to stop evil sex fiends getting away with it.

Last month, east Belfast man Henry Irwin - formerly of McMaster Street - was sentenced to 13 years and nine months in prison for a total of 45 sexual assault charges against children, including rape.

But, under Northern Ireland's controversial 50% remission law, Irwin (43), who has already been in jail for over two years, will serve less than five years for his despicable crimes.

Stephen, who admitted that the terrifying ordeal drove him to attempt suicide three times, was in court when Irwin was sentenced and said the verdict made him feel that there was no justice.

"He is a monster," said Stephen.

"When the judge said 11 years, I thought it was great, but then they told me he was really only getting under five years and I wanted to scream.

"If it was my will he should have got life. I'd like to see him dead."

He added: "This is something that will be with me for the rest of my life."

Stephen, who was repeatedly abused by Irwin, said he had been lured into the rapist's house with the promise of vodka and cigarettes.

Inside, he was shown porn, while the sick sexual deviant "spoke dirty" and performed lurid sex acts on himself - and Stephen. Then, in a matter of weeks, as Irwin progressed from grooming to sheer brute force, he raped the youngster.

Brutally raped at age 13 ...a horror I can't forget

Last week, evil paedophile Henry Irwin (43) was jailed for horrific sexual abuse - including rape - against eight children. Today, one of those victims, brave Stephen Graham (16), tells Claire McNeilly why he is waiving his right to anonymity in order to expose this fiend and hopefully encourage other victims to come forward

Today is Stephen Graham's 16th birthday. But there will be no lavish party, no elaborate celebrations and no coming-of-age extravaganza.

Instead, Stephen has courageously decided to mark the occasion by waiving his anonymity - to expose the sick paedophile who viciously raped him.

There are faint tears in his eyes when he talks about the brutal rape - the culmination of a series of sexual assaults - that has changed his life forever.

And - understandably - at times, he finds it difficult to speak.

Aged 13, Stephen was just a boy when rapist Henry Irwin (43) formerly of McMaster Street in Belfast, robbed him of his childhood, after putting him through a despicable ordeal.

Worse still, the convicted sex offender was supposed to be a friend when he repeatedly assaulted him.

In the two years since the dreadful crimes took place, Stephen says that his waking hours have been punctuated with flashbacks, while nightmares torment his sleep.

That day - the day he was raped, the day that Henry Irwin decided to abuse his trust, the day the sexual predator stripped him physically of his garments and mentally of his innocence - has become many of Stephen's yesterdays.

And, doubtless, it will continue to taint each of his tomorrows.

Stephen cannot forget what happened, but by speaking out, he hopes to inspire other victims of sexual crime to break their silence.

"I can't remember the exact date, but it happened just shortly before he went to jail," said Stephen.

"I went round to his house. He was dead jumpy, as if something was worrying him. He asked me to come upstairs so he could show me his new computer.

"He took me into his bedroom and locked the door. He began pushing me about the room and started trying to take my trousers off.

"He pushed himself on to me and swung me round. Then he pulled my trousers down and he raped me.

"It was really sore. I was crying and I was telling him to get off me. But he wasn't listening. I'm not sure how long it lasted, but the whole time he was raping me he was making weird noises, like grunts."

After the painful ordeal was finally over, Stephen somehow managed to prise open the bedroom door and escape.

"He came after me, but I ran out of the house," he recalled.

"I went for a walk. I didn't understand what had happened to me. I didn't realise I had been raped. I didn't tell anyone what had happened for months.

"I felt angry and upset. I never went near him again. I was feeling strange at school. I didn't go out at all. I just sat in.

"I was having nightmares about it and flashbacks and all. They are still with me."

In May, Irwin was convicted of rape, although he denied the charge. It was one of a staggering 45 sexual assault charges brought against him.

Stephen was only one of eight victims - young girls and boys - that Irwin abused over a 10-year period, between 1995 and 2005.

He was only caught when social workers received an anonymous tip-off by phone.

"He used to take us out in his car," Stephen said.

"He gave us vodka and cigarettes and let us smoke in front of him. He said he wouldn't tell our parents.

"Six or seven weeks after I first met him he started showing us porn DVDs with men and women and he used to talk dirty."

Irwin admitted several charges of assault against Stephen between March and April 2005, culminating in his rape.

"When he was touching me I tried to fight him off, but he said it was normal," Stephen said.

"I didn't understand what he was doing. I was dead shaky and I felt a bit strange, but he told me that if I told anyone about it I wouldn't be living for long"

Last month, Irwin was sentenced to 13 years, nine months in prison.

But, as he has already spent at least two years in jail, under Northern Ireland's controversial 50% remission law, he will walk free in under five years.

Stephen, who was in court when Irwin was sentenced, said that the verdict made him feel that there was no justice.

"He is a monster," he said.

"It felt strange seeing him in court. I was worried my temper would break. I wanted to hit him.

"When the judge said 11 years, I thought it was great, but then they told me he was really only getting under five years and I wanted to scream.

"If it was my will he should have got life. I'd like to see him dead."

Stephen, who is receiving counselling, admitted that, on three separate occasions, he had taken an overdose. He was also hospitalised in August, after his weight plummeted to seven and a half stone.

"Sometimes I want to punish myself because of what he did to me," he said.

"I blame him for this. I get on with my life but sometimes I stay in my room for days and days, just sitting there watching TV and everything goes through my mind."

Despite his turmoil and the endless flashbacks, Stephen's father William (47) praised his son for having the strength of character to speak out.

"Stephen is incredibly brave," he said.

"He knows his family and friends are completely behind him. He wanted to speak out because he understands that vicious sex offenders pry on children because they think they can get away with it.

"Stephen's courage will hopefully give other victims the strength to come forward."

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