Stepfather tied pet dog to train track and forced twins to watch it die, court hears

Man breaks down at trial describing how abuse by stepfather ‘became the norm’

The trial before Judge Martina Baxter and a jury of eight men and four women continues on Thursday. Photograph: Alan Betson

The trial before Judge Martina Baxter and a jury of eight men and four women continues on Thursday. Photograph: Alan Betson


A man who claims he was regularly sexually and physically assaulted by his stepfather has told a court the accused once tied a pet dog to a railway track and forced him and his twin brother to watch it being killed by a train.

The witness said his stepfather had “lost his nut” when the animal escaped.

The man broke down giving evidence at Wicklow Circuit Criminal Court as he recalled how sexual and physical abuse in their home “became the norm”.

The man also recalled getting an electric shock after his stepfather ran a current through a door handle in order to prevent him from getting into one of two premises where they lived.

The trial heard the witness used to drink water from puddles because they were not allowed drink water at home.

Their stepfather (66) with an address in the west of Ireland, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, has pleaded not guilty to a series of charges of indecent assault and child cruelty on dates between December 1st, 1988, and May 31st, 1989, at a location in Co Wicklow.


They include 12 charges of indecent assault against each of his two stepsons when aged eight and seven charges of child cruelty on each of his alleged victims.

He is also charged with one count of animal cruelty and two counts of indecent assault by making the two boys abuse each other.

Asked by counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Séamus Clarke SC, to describe the treatment he received from his stepfather, the witness replied: “Horrific”.

“You don’t abuse people. You don’t rape people, especially children,” he remarked.

The man added: “I still have nightmares. I’m a 40-year-old man now.”

He told the court that he could remember being made to perform sexual acts with a girl in front of the accused, the accused’s brother and his own mother in England.

After the family moved to Ireland, the man said he and his brother got a beating every day “no matter what”, while the sexual abuse took place “five days out of seven” when his mother would go out to work.

The witness recalled how he would sometimes wake up with his pants around his ankles and know something had happened as he was sore and sometimes suffered anal bleeding. “When I didn’t bleed he would rape me,” he added.

On another occasion, he said the accused had threatened him by placing a knife under his chin when he resisted being touched.

Counsel for the accused, Patrick McGrath SC, said there were “stark differences” in some of the evidence given by the two brothers including how the witness denied ever being made perform any sexual act on his brother, while his brother said they had.

Mr McGrath said the witness recalled his brother’s fingers being smashed with a hammer by their stepfather, while his brother had made no reference to the incident.

Under cross-examination, the man said he was crying because of what his stepfather had done to him. “I’m not here for the fun of it,” he added.

The man said he had never spoken with his brother about what happened to them as “it is embarrassing for two men to talk about rape”.

The witness said he had “his first recollection of being happy” when he and his brother were placed in foster care after a teacher noticed he had bruises on his body.

Hungry and dirty

A female neighbour told the trial that she had gone to the boys’ teacher about concerns that they were not being looked after as she had noticed they were hungry and dirty.

She also recalled that the witness had visited her about 20 years ago when he showed her scars he received after being “glassed” by his stepfather.

The boys’ former teacher gave evidence that they had told her about the incident with the dog.

“They were very, very upset. I found it distressing and I believed them,” she said.

Evidence was heard that the boys were enrolled in the school between December 1988 and May 1989.

While the teacher said they were regular attendants, she was not surprised they believed they were only in school for a few days “because they were so young”.

A social worker, Anna Comerford, who oversaw the provision of foster care for the boys, said they were still “absolutely terrified” they would not be safe even after they had been moved to live with a family in England.

The trial before Judge Martina Baxter and a jury of eight men and four women continues on Thursday.