Retired soldier pleads guilty to raping and abusing daughters
‘I have had feelings of guilt and hurt for years but today I hand them back to my Dad’
Melissa O’Keeffe (left) and her sister Amy Barrett leave court after their father, Jerry O’Keeffe (69), was remanded in custody. Photograph: Collins Courts
A retired soldier who pleaded guilty to raping his daughter over a five year period and to regularly abusing another daughter will be sentenced next month.
Jerry O’Keeffe (69) of Oakhill, Youghal, Cork pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to three charges of rape, five of indecent assault and one of sexual assault. These were nine sample charges out of a total of 78 covering a period from January 1980 to March 1987.
Timothy O’Leary SC, prosecuting, told court that both women were waiving their right to anonymity.
Sergeant John Sharkey told Mr O’Leary that the three charges of rape and two charges of indecent assault relate to his eldest daughter, Amy Barrett and took place at the family home at The Arch, Youghal, Co Cork.
Sgt Sharkey said that O’Keeffe regularly asked Amy, who was aged eight at the time, to sit on his lap in the sitting room. He would then sexually assault her before bringing her upstairs to his bedroom where he would remove his clothes and rape her.
The abuse ended in 1985 when Mrs Barrett was aged 12.
Sgt Sharkey said the remaining charges related to the abuse of the younger daughter, Melissa O’Keeffe, which took place at the family’s new home at Catherine’s Street, Youghal, Co Cork.
O’Keeffe would go into the child’s bedroom late at night after returning from the pub and climb into bed beside her. He would then molest her, the court heard.
The women reported the abuse to the Southern Health Board in 1999 after attending the Rape Crisis Centre in Cork. As a result O’Keefe agreed to leave the family home and no further action was taken against him.
Melissa O’Keeffe said she went to gardaí in 1999 but withdrew the allegations after her parents confronted her. Both victims reported the matter to gardaí again in October 2014.
In her victim impact statement Amy Barrett described her childhood as very traumatic, and said she was “a mixed bag of confusion and terror” as a result of her father’s crimes.
She said she found making friends very difficult and attempted suicide after the birth of her first child “just to get some peace.”
She said still suffers from panic attacks and the sexual abuse took most of her confidence away.
Mrs Barrett paid tribute to the Rape Crisis Centre in Cork, who she said supported her throughout the last few years since she reported the matter to gardaí.
“I have had feelings of guilt, shame, embarrassment and hurt for years but today I hand them back to my Dad,” she said.
A victim impact statement on behalf of Ms O’Keeffe was read out to the court and described how she resisted calling out for her mother in case she got into trouble.
“I went to gardaí to make a complaint in 1999 but my parents confronted me so I had to lie and say I made it all up,” she said.
Ms O’Keeffe said she found it hard to settle in relationships as a result of the abuse.
“If I get a certain smell or if someone moves in a certain way I freak out. But today I finally have the voice that I didn’t have when I was 16,” she said.
The court heard that O’Keeffe, who has no previous convictions, completed three tours of the Lebanon and retired from the army in 2004.
Ronan Munro SC, defending, told the court that O’Keeffe was himself the victim of sexual abuse when he was a child.
He said O’Keeffe made some admissions to a psychiatrist and agreed to leave the family home. His client suffers from a heart condition and has poor mental health, counsel said.
Judge Patrick McCarthy remanded O’Keeffe in custody until November 6th when he will be sentenced.