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Sunday Life

Paedophile Orangeman ran for DUP in election

Pervert who sexually assaulted his sister and granddaughter faces boot from Orange Order

Ivan Russell
Ivan Russell
Stoneyford Orangeman Mark Harbinson
Ivan Russell
Ciaran Barnes

By Ciaran Barnes

A "SELFISH and monstrous" paedophile jailed for abusing two young family members is a former DUP election candidate.

Leading Portadown Orangeman Ivan Russell was sentenced to six years for sexually assaulting his sister Margaret Brown when she was just 13 years old, and granddaughter Rebekah Russell when she was aged 17.

Both his victims, who are now adults, bravely waived their right to anonymity in order to identify their pervert relative who was caged at Craigavon Crown Court last week.

Russell's admissions have rocked the Orange Order and Free Presbyterian Church in north Armagh - with both institutions at one time considering the shamed 65-year-old a valued member.

They have also embarrassed the DUP, who he represented in the 2005 local government elections.

A former friend told Sunday Life: "Ivan Russell pulled the wool over everyone's eyes. We thought he was an upstanding member of the community, when in fact he was abusing young female relatives."

Our source said it was well known that Russell had a dark side - pointing to a 2002 Drumcree rioting conviction - and that he had been supportive of paedophile Orangeman Mark Harbinson after he was jailed in 2011 for abusing a schoolgirl.

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"People thought it strange that Ivan spoke up for Harbinson (below) after he was found guilty, but no one suspected this was because he was also a child abuser," added his ex-pal.

"It was thought that this was because he was convicted of rioting with Harbinson at Drumcree, and nothing else."

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Stoneyford Orangeman Mark Harbinson

Russell was so well thought of in unionist circles in Portadown that he was selected by the DUP to run for Craigavon Borough Council in the 2005 local government elections. He polled 302 first preference votes which was not enough to win a seat in the Loughside ward.

What Russell's loyal supporters had no clue about is that he was, in fact, a long-standing paedophile who started abusing his younger sister Margaret in the mid-1970s.

He was aged 21 when he first crept into the terrified 13-year-old's room and molested her.

The abuse, which started shortly after the birth of Russell's first child, took place between 1974 and 1976 until after his second child was born and he became a Christian.

Margaret was targeted by her older brother while she babysat the youngsters in his home.

Now living in Canada, she only made a statement to police in 2016 when she learned that he had also abused his granddaughter Rebekah, who is her grand-niece.

A drunken Russell sexually assaulted the 17-year-old during a family holiday in Crete, pinning her to the hotel bar next to a pool table.

Frightened Rebekah later told a teacher at Portadown College, with her grandfather confessing to the attack during a counselling session.

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Ivan Russell

Disgraced Russell no longer has any connection to the DUP and in the aftermath of his child abuse convictions, faces being kicked out of his beloved Orange Order.

The self-confessed paedophile was also a regular attendee at Sunday services in Lurgan Free Presbyterian Church with his wife Muriel, who is standing by him and was in court to see him jailed and placed on the sex offenders register for life.

She and a group of supporters sat on one side of the public gallery away from Russell's brave granddaughter Rebekah and her immediate family.

In a joint statement issued after he was jailed, victims Rebekah and Margaret Brown branded their relative "cruel".

They said: "After consulting with friends and family, we have made the uneasy decision to waive our anonymity so that the perpetrator can be publicly identified, the truth be heard and those most cruel to us can finally be silenced.

"The selfish and monstrous actions of one man, who was a brother and a grandfather, have left deep and lasting scars on both of us but we now at least have a measure of justice."

In a victim impact statement, Margaret added: "I feel Ivan took my innocence at 13. I will never understand why he did it."

Their words have had a sobering effect on Ivan Russell's former friends in north Armagh, some of whom stood by him after he was charged.

Up until Rebekah and Margaret went public last week, the coward had hidden behind the cloak of anonymity, unable to be named by the media as it would identify his victims.

cbarnes@sundaylife.co.uk

Belfast Telegraph

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