Fateful stroll to the castle grounds

 

ON New Year's Eve, 1991, Lavinia Kerwick was an 18 year old Kilkenny childminder and restaurant worker who had been a good student and had won trophies for karate. Her father, who she had seen die in 1984, had a drink problem. She recalled her father's drinking and didn't want to be hurt again, which is why her boyfriend William Conry's drinking upset her.

Lavinia had been dating William for six months, although he was not the man whom Lavinia intended to lose her virginity with. "The important thing was to be able to say you had a boyfriend," she says.

She believed that she and William were bound together by their shared experience of death. "He had seen his brother killed and I had seen my Dad die and I had seen my baby sister Majella die," says Lavinia.

William, the 17 year old son of a farmer, was present when his four year old brother was killed by a tractor. William was a loner who had left school at 15, only to be diagnosed as dyslexic after the rape. He was, the court later heard, immature for his age. Lavinia's mother disapproved of him from the start.

On New Year's Eve, 1991, Lavinia had gone to a disco with her mother and her mother's friends. She had dressed carefully for the occasion, wearing her new Christmas outfit for the first time - a black top, black velvet mini and a red jacket - which she would later blame herself for wearing in the belief that it provoked William to rape her.

At 11.30 p.m. when she was going to the toilet, she met William coming out of it. He asked her to dance and she refused at first because he didn't appear sober. But then she joined him on the floor for a slow dance to Bryan Adams's Everything I Do. Lavinia noticed that they had just rung in the New Year.

She left the disco with William at 2 a.m. They walked to Kilkenny Castle grounds and lay down together on William's jacket. They talked for about 45 minutes, then, according to Lavinia, William started getting rough. A full account of the rape that followed, taken from the statement made by Lavinia to Garda Agnes Reddy, is contained in Micheline McCormack's book. Efforts by McCormack to get William Conry to tell her his memory of events were unsuccessful.

WHEN Garda Reddy made an appointment for Lavinia to go to the Rape Crisis Centre in Clonmel her first reaction was that only prostitutes went there after they'd been raped. "And she thought they wouldn't believe her there anyway. She was so ashamed of what had happened. She felt that everyone would be looking at her all the time, pointing a finger at her," writes McCormack who also quotes a letter sent by William Conry to Lavinia about four weeks after the rape in which he apologised. "It is only know that I realise the hardship you are having. I can assure you that this was never intended by me as I felt we had a good relationship and you being hurt is of concern to me." The letter, says the book, angered Lavinia. "The arrogance of him, expecting her to talk to him at this stage. That letter should, she felt, have come the day after the rape. He had left things too late. Yet she was confused as to what to do with the letter." She decided to, hand it over to Kilkenny Garda Station.