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Sunday Life

Ex-Newry showband star Luke Burke confesses to indecent assault

Music teacher groomed and abused his teenage student

Newry man Luke Burke (78)
Newry man Luke Burke (78)
John Toner

By John Toner

This is the former showband star and music teacher who groomed and sexually assaulted a teenage pupil in the 1990s.

Luke Burke (78) - who was a trumpeter with the popular Hilton Showband - was convicted of indecently assaulting a female between 1994 and 1995 when she was just 16.

The Newry man admitted the charge while pleading not guilty to eight similar charges which were left on the books.

Burke was given a suspended sentence at Newry Crown Court last month and Sunday Life can now reveal a series of images of the former music teacher and '60s and '70s showband star.

In The Hilton Showband's heyday they shared bills with Van Morrison's band Them and, according to a showband history site, the group met and played with other music greats including Tom Jones, Bill Haley and The Clancy Brothers.

His victim says the ordeal has weighed on her for decades and Burke groomed her from when she was just 15.

"This was a man who abused his power and it started as a very frightened young girl who had a traumatic past. I was targeted and groomed and the fact it grew into a relationship shows the level I was groomed at," she told The Outlook local newspaper.

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Newry man Luke Burke, when he played trumpet in the Hilton Showband
Newry man Luke Burke, when he played trumpet in the Hilton Showband

"I was not allowed to talk about this relationship and it has had life-limiting implications now by the fact I question motives, what people want from you and it sabotages your self-esteem and confidence.

"There is no area of your life that is not affected and you second guess yourself all the time.

"I hate that word (victim) and that is something that I am not, I am someone who has come full circle.

"He pleaded guilty before it came to trial and I never could have imagined we would have a guilty verdict never mind a guilty plea.

"I would now like to try and move forward from this and I would hope that is anyone who is reading this in the same position as I was will come forward to police and speak out."

She also revealed how the abuse began and would go on to take place in a building in which she was taught in Newry.

She added: "He was tutoring me when this took place and was also familiar to me in the capacity of being involved in the music scene.

"This materialised from a grooming perspective and led into a relationship past 18 years of age which still had to be kept secretive. At this time there was no grooming laws and so in court we could only go with the charges that were in place at the time and that was unfortunate for us."

The woman first went to the police over two years ago and says she has been through an "ongoing ordeal" but was pleased Burke finally admitted wrongdoing.

She said: "My husband and I and my legal team felt it was probably more pertinent that there was a guilty plea to one charge as through research the statistics are very low in relation to achieving a guilty verdict by trial.

"(The sentence) does not reflect the hurt, damage and pain and (I believe) the justice system does not side with the victims.

"For him to plead guilty shows that there was something there and proves what happened all those years ago (which is) a relief.

"This man lives within my community, I see people that he taught and it brings it all back."

When approached by Sunday Life over his offending Burke, of College Gardens, Newry, declined to comment.

Burke was given a nine-month jail sentence suspended for two years and was ordered to sign the sex offenders' register for 10 years, however he was not barred from working with children.

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