Late paedophile was capable of killing Philip Cairns, says victim
Radio Dublin’s Eamon Cooke ‘a powerful man in the dark underbelly of society’
Eamon Cooke pictured at the Radio Dublin studio in 2001. File photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins
Late convicted paedophile Eamon Cooke was “a powerful man in the dark underbelly of society” who was capable of killing Philip Cairns, according to a woman who was sexually abused by the former DJ as a child.
Sophia, who wished to remain anonymous during her interview on Friday with Newstalk Lunchtime, grew up near Cooke’s home and would play in his garage with other children from the local area. She remembers the day he came into the garage and invited the children to play in his home whenever they liked.
“No child has any idea they’re being groomed,” she said. “It mirrors so well the ordinary everyday things that parents and adults do with children. Gifts, kind words - it’s difficult to see.”
Cooke used to pair children together when abusing them. “Particularly girls together, that was one of his methods of operation. In doing that he almost created a greater secrecy. Two children had to keep the secret and two children would be threatened.”
Showed her pornography
As time went on, Cooke’s abuse of Sophia became more sexualised. He would show her pornography, and when she was nine years old she remembers him taking her naked into his bed with another child.
Cooke told the children they would be harmed or put into a children’s home if they told anyone about his behaviour.
When Sophia turned 10, the staff at Cooke’s radio station held a “mutiny” and walked out. His sexual abuse of Sophia ended around that time.
She did not tell her parents what had happened until she turned 18. She made a statement to gardaí in 1986, but no action was taken. Around the same time, Cooke turned up at the shop where Sophia worked and threatened her.
“Eamon Cooke engendered so much fear, not just in children, in adults, in parents, in the church, in guards... he was a powerful man in the dark underbelly of society.”
Three years later, when she was aged 21, Sophia discovered he was opening a child phone line on his radio station. She was so angry she went to Cooke’s home in the middle of the night to confront him.
“I had lost faith in family, the guards, the State, the church and this man was still walking around.”
In 2000, Sophia was contacted by gardaí asking her to make a statement against Cooke. “We had a three-year wait to get to trial. Eamon Cooke was an astute-minded, legal mind and... was above the law for many years. I had faith in that trial, that they could overcome this man.”
In 2003 Cooke was convicted of attempted rape, attempted unlawful carnal knowledge and sexual and indecent assault of four girls. The convictions were subsequently quashed due to a legal technicality, and he was released in 2006.
When gardaí asked Sophia whether she would testify against Cooke again in 2007, her initial reaction was to refuse. She changed her mind when she thought about all the children who had suffered Cooke’s abuse.
“It was a nightmare for our minds every night, knowing what he was capable of doing. In a courtroom for victims in cases like this, you have to remember that all eyes are on you all the time.
“It’s extremely exposing for the human psyche to go through that over and over again.”
No sense of victory
Cooke was found guilty of 42 charges and sentenced to 10 years in prison in March 2007 for sexually assaulting young girls. Sophia says there was no sense of victory in his conviction.
Cooke died earlier this month in a Dublin hospice at the age of 79. Sophia struggled to believe her abuser was dead when she was contacted with the news.
“I didn’t believe he was going to die. You think he’s playing some kind of game.” After 40 years of living in a world with Cooke, Sophia says the fear is now slowly lifting.
“I don’t know what life is like without the fear of Eamon Cooke in the background. It’s going to take time.”
Cooke has now been linked to the case of missing person Philip Cairns, who was just 13 when he disappeared from Rathfarnham, Dublin, in October 1986. The only trace ever found of the boy was his schoolbag, which showed up in a nearby laneway about a week later.
Sophia says she believes Cooke was capable of killing Philip Cairns. “Eamon Cooke was the most vile, evil, violent psychopath you’re ever likely to meet. He had no conscience, and yes he had it in him. I don’t know whether he did kill Philip Cairns but I know he certainly had it in him.”
She also fears for the safety of young children who are increasingly exposed to paedophiles through the internet. “Eamon Cooke and his likes are still about. What worries me is that today parents are inviting these people into their homes through technology.”
After four decades of fighting for justice for the crimes committed by Cooke, Sophia says she still lacks bravery. “I was terrified most of the time and I don’t feel like I was brave. I think courage for me is now living in a world where he isn’t present. That’s when I will need my courage.”