In the eyes of the law, the rugby star went to his grave with no child sex convictions... but so did another notorious paedophile
Just because something is true, doesn’t mean you can say it.
That was something I recall the former Times editor Harold Evans telling a group of rookie journalists at a media law course in 1988.
When we asked him to provide an example, he answered without hesitation, and to gasps of astonishment: “Jimmy Savile. Everyone in the mainstream UK media knows he’s a paedophile…”
Jimmy Savile and Davy Tweed have plenty in common.
They were once role models and pillars of society. Ostensibly, they worked to improve people’s lives.
They also used to have their photographs on a wall at Ballymena Rugby Club’s Eaton Park premises. But not anymore.
Those pictures were removed in late November 2012.
It was shortly after ‘Tweedy’, then 53 years old, was convicted of 13 charges including indecent assault and gross indecency.
During his trial, which lasted nearly four weeks at Antrim Crown Court, a landmark ITV documentary Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile, finally lifted the rock to reveal that one of the vilest creatures imaginable had been crawling underneath it for decades.
This was a year after Savile’s death.
The TV presenter’s profile, which you can still read on the BBC website, described him as: “one of Britain’s biggest stars, a larger-than-life character…”
‘Larger-than-life character’. Now, where have you read that phrase recently?
Perhaps in the tributes to the late Davy Tweed from TUV leader Jim Allister and the DUP’s Mervyn Storey shortly after the death last month of a man who had represented both unionist parties as a councillor.
Mr Allister, Mr Storey and DUP MP Ian Paisley, who also paid tribute to Tweed, have all since rowed back from their initial tributes in the light of harrowing testimony from the 61-year-old former Ballymena, Ulster and Ireland rugby star’s daughters and stepdaughters.
Now grown women — and disgusted by the tributes — they waived their right to anonymity to tell the Sunday World about the horrendous physical, psychological and sexual abuse suffered at the hands of a depraved pervert who lived in their home when they were young children.
The testimony, especially from stepdaughter Amanda Brown, shocked many but was no surprise to those who knew a man whose victims often referred to him as “The Tweedophile”.
Two other daughters, Victoria and Catherine Alexandra, said their father had also been sexually and physically assaulting them from the age of six.
Their stepsister Ms Brown later told BBC Radio Ulster’s Talkback programme that some of the sentiments in the politicians’ statements about Tweed were “massively disrespectful to all victims of abuse”.
She added: “When people are passing comments about this ‘great man’ after knowing what he was convicted of, to still support him, that’s the message that they’re giving out to other victims.”
(With this being Northern Ireland, those remarks prompted a flurry of ‘whataboutery’ on social media, referencing child sex abuse in the Catholic Church — as if two horrific wrongs somehow bring about a balanced righteousness).
Jim Allister, a prominent barrister as well as Northern Ireland Assembly member for North Antrim, pointed out in an initially defiant statement earlier this week (he later apologised) that Tweed was “acquitted on appeal in respect of criminal charges under the rule of law”.
This is correct: in October 2015, Tweed’s convictions were quashed after his lawyers challenged the conviction based on flaws in how ‘bad character evidence’ was put before the jury.
Judges ruled in Tweed’s favour; that his background “took on a disproportionate role in the case and created a real risk that the jury would pay more prejudicial attention to it than should have been the case”.
As Tweed had already served four years of his eight-year
sentence, a retrial was not ordered.
But as his daughter Victoria recalled this month: “It was over the tiniest legal loophole — not because he was innocent.”
Technically, though, in the eyes of the law — and, like notorious fellowabuser Jimmy Savile — Tweed did not go to his grave in Dunloy Presbyterian as a convicted paedophile.
A proud, arrogant man like ‘Tweedy’ wouldn’t have wanted that stain on his character.
Leaving the quashed conviction aside for a moment, however, he was still a loathsome, despicable human being.
This is a man who admitted in open court to being a repetitive wife-beater.
His former spouse Margaret Brown told this newspaper in 2012 about the “terror” she experienced in their Ballymoney home during a highly volatile 23-year relationship which ended when allegations of sexual abuse first arose in 2007.
The slightly-built Belfast native, who met Tweed in 1984 and married him six years later, was over a foot shorter than her six-feet-five, 18-stone husband.
“The beatings started from the year dot — he would beat me black and blue,” she said, adding: “I did leave him many times but he would always bring me back. Once he threatened me with paramilitaries.”
This is the man whose own sister, Hazel McAllister, said she lived in fear of him and that there were “a lot more things to come out” about the type of person he was and the heinous things he did.
This is the man who, furious at his local Orange lodge, LOL 496, being prevented from marching through his native Dunloy in the mid-1990s, took logic-defying revenge by terrorising elderly Catholic churchgoers in Ballymena’s Harryville area every weekend for nine months.
It takes a special kind of sectarian hatred to spend something like 36 consecutive Saturday nights verbally abusing pensioners and attacking police officers assigned to protect them.
A former friend who asked not to be named told me: “Tweedy was the most bigoted man I ever met.
“He hated Roman Catholics with every fibre of his being; he regarded them as a sub-human species, the way Nazis saw Jews.
“His heroes weren’t rugby stars like Paul O’Connell, who played in the same position for Ireland as he did [second row forward]. Tweedy was more in awe of [murdered LVF leader] Billy Wright and (former UFF leader} Johnny Adair.
“I would call myself a loyalist, but I could never associate myself with a person like that.”
This is the man who, in the words of a witness, “beat the crap” out of another man in a Ballymoney pub in October 1997 — shortly before his election to the council chamber in Ballymena — and was fined at Coleraine Magistrates Court for assault.
This is the man who, in 2006, “questioned the upbringing” of 15-year-old Ballymena Catholic Michael McIlveen, who had been brutally murdered in a sectarian attack.
As he said back then: “There are no back doors on Tweedy.”
This is the man who was caught drink driving in 2007 and taken off the roads for a year.
The TUV, Orange Order, Royal Black Institution, rugby clubs and many family members disowned him after the child sex abuse convictions of 2012 (let the record state that, in January 2009, Tweed was also charged with 10 sex offences against two young girls, spanning an eight-year period; he was acquitted four months later).
But even after he was suspended by the TUV in September 2011, he still had the brass neck to continue attending council meetings and releasing pious press statements.
At the time, the TUV could not reveal his suspension because an order banning Tweed’s identification had been made at Coleraine Magistrates Court in January 2012, and again the following month at Antrim Crown Court.
It was the Belfast Telegraph who got that order overturned, a week into the high-profile trial.
Chris Kilpatrick, our reporter back then, recalled: “On the first day, I sat in court as the jury was sworn in and the 14 charges detailed.
“Just hours later, I was reporting on a meeting of Ballymena Borough Council — and Tweed was there.
“He broke off from engaging in light conversation and joking with fellow councillors to briefly catch my eye from across the room.”
Mr Kilpatrick added: “For a split second, the confident demeanour appeared to slip, before he turned away and returned to light-hearted exchanges with colleagues, seemingly oblivious to the seriousness of the charges that had been levelled against him just a few hours earlier.”
The Irish Rugby Football Union made no effort to honour their former player following his death in a motorcycling accident on Whitepark Road close to Dunseverick, Co Antrim, on October 28 this year.
At Ireland’s opening autumn international against Japan at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium a few days after his funeral, there was no official recognition of the big, hard-as-nails forward had been capped four times in a green shirt, the first of which made him, at 35, the oldest debutant.
Who knew what this angry, violent, abusive beast was really like? Or, to put it a better way, who on earth didn’t?
His previously mentioned physical, psychological and verbal attacks on others are a matter of public record.
And — even if you stand by the “innocent in the eyes of the law” maxim regarding the multiple child sex abuse claims — it’s hard to believe that three experienced, senior North Antrim politicians still felt that disgraced arch-bigot, convicted drink-driver and serial wife-beater Davy Tweed was the type of person you could pay even a passing public tribute to.
During his sentencing at Downpatrick Crown Court in January 2013 — and before he was led away in handcuffs, smiling and blowing kisses to his supporters en route to Maghaberry Prison — Tweed’s defence lawyer had described him as a “polite” and “diligent” man with “a caring nature” who “brought help to hundreds of constituents”, was “hardworking and trustworthy” and had “rose to some prominence in the sporting world”.
Judge Devlin, however, said that while he may have “previously been well thought of by many in society”, that only made the subsequent revelations “all the more tragic”.
DUP and TUV politicians were a little too quick to pay tribute to this “larger than life character” last month, and far too slow to withdraw those remarks although the ultimately did.
The silence of so many others who knew Davy Tweed, however, told you everything you need to know about this monster.