Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

'At last it's over': 40 years on justice catches up with Northern Ireland Jehovah Witness pervert

Jehovah's Witness, now 76, to be sentenced for historic sex attacks

Laura Waring is determined no one else will fall victim to Eric Loyal
Laura Waring is determined no one else will fall victim to Eric Loyal
Eric Loyal

By Christopher Woodhouse

A WOMAN abused as a child by a fellow Jehovah's Witness during Bible study classes has bravely spoken out about her life-wrecking experience.

Laura Waring courageously waived her right to anonymity after her attacker pleaded guilty to a string of child sex charges.

On Tuesday, Charles Frederick Loyal, known as Eric, admitted 18 accounts of abuse against Laura, dating back to 1975 when he was in his 30s.

"It will never be closure but I can draw a line and though I thought I could never get over it, I can move forward now," she told Sunday Life.

Laura (51) explained the abuse by Loyal started when she was eight years old and continued for three years on an almost weekly basis.

Loyal, now aged 76, is due to be sentenced next month but refused to say anything about the case when approached by our reporter.

"The abuse happened in my own home, my parents hosted a Bible study meeting every Tuesday night," recalled the Newtownabbey woman.

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"When we had people at the house for Bible study every week, me or my sister would have been asked to take the coats upstairs and put them on my parents' bed.

"Any time I was doing that he would say, 'I'll give you a hand,' and come up behind me and abuse me in their bedroom.

"It also happened a couple of times in the church and at his home as well.

"When he started kissing me it started to ring alarm bells, next he was starting to touch me. I was absolutely horrified.

"I didn't know what sex was but I knew that was wrong but it was always my fault, why did I let him do it?

"It was never 'our secret', it was 'my secret', I let him do it because I just froze, I was absolutely petrified.

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Eric Loyal

"As time went on I became more disgusted with myself because I let him go that bit further every time and I couldn't say anything, I was just so ashamed I let him do it."

Laura said the abuse stopped when she entered puberty at age 11 and Loyal moved to another church.

"I was 17 when I first told my mum but it was only about 10 years ago when I told my dad. My mum is dead now," recalled Laura.

"He cried and said, 'That wouldn't happen in the church'. My dad has been there for 50 years, he was very, very upset but he said that couldn't happen in the church.

"I was absolutely devastated."

Laura explained that her parents and sister noted that her personality changed around the age of eight or nine, becoming very shy and timid along with fits of anger.

"I still carried the guilt, I still felt disgusted with myself and I think I was angry with my parents that they didn't see what was going on," she said.

"I would push people away and wouldn't want anyone to get close to me, I remember my teenage years as just crying in my room all the time and arguing with my parents.

"It was something that I thought about every day and even now I would say that everything in my life comes back to that in some way.

"It taints everything and I'm a bit of a control freak now and that's because I didn't have any control at that time.

"My relationship with my daughter has suffered, she has seen me crying on the floor and in bouts of depression. I think he really just broke my spirit."

Laura attended the church until the birth of her daughter in 1996 and is now no longer a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses.

"I raised it with the church elders in 2008, I was 40, and they contacted the ones where Loyal was still attending," she explained.

"They said 'We'll go ask him', and then they phoned me back and said he told them he didn't do it and that's the end of it.

"Absolutely nothing was done. Then in 2013 I made an official complaint and they said there was nothing more they could do.

"As time went on my father got dementia and I thought I had to go to the police, I thought now is the time, I know it was 40 years later but I had to go to the police.

"What I was worried about was if he had done it to someone else or if he was still doing it, there was an awful lot of guilt.

"I was really scared about going to the police but I had to do it. I wanted to do it before Loyal died.

"I arranged a meeting with him, my sister and the elders of the church and he said he couldn't remember.

"I told him you are going to have to start remembering because I'm going to the police straight after this meeting."

After three years the case came to court where Loyal denied the offences up until last Tuesday when he pleaded guilty to 18 charges of sexual assault on a child.

He is due to be sentenced on December 17.

Laura said she was "fully prepared" to give evidence and be cross-examined as part of a trial. "I just thought, 'I'm ready now', I really wanted to do it.

"I always said once I got a guilty verdict or a guilty plea I don't care what happens to him, I just want other people to keep their children away from him.

"My family believed it happened and my friends but to have the Public Prosecution Service take it this far and get a guilty plea means the world to me."

Laura also urged others who may have been abused while in the Jehovah's Witnesses in Northern Ireland to come forward.

"If I can do it and get justice anybody can, it has been really, really tough and I have felt like giving up so many times," she said.

"The help I have received from the police, different support groups, counselling, has been amazing and you can do it with their help.

"It is scary coming froward and going to the police but you can do it, you absolutely can do it.

"There is absolutely no need to suffer in silence."

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