In a windswept, isolated bog near Belcoo, Co Fermanagh, lay the body of a former school bus driver responsible for a litany of sex attacks against his young passengers. He had been brutally murdered, possibly in an attack motivated by revenge.
David Sullivan (51) spent much of his time driving his white, specially adapted Hyundai at all hours of the day visiting places such as scenic Lough Navar near Derrygonnelly, outside Enniskillen.
He was something of a nomad, a creature of the night who never slept for more than four hours. He had no siblings, just an elderly mother to whom he spoke regularly.
On February 3rd, 2001, his remains were discovered by a man walking his dog, a year and five months after he had gone missing. Sullivan was at that time suffering from advanced Parkinson’s disease.
Almost 20 years on, Sullivan’s killer has never been found and while there were always allegations about sexual impropriety when he was alive, including his possible links with local businessmen and professional people to a suspected paedophile ring in Enniskillen during the 1980s, it is only now with the passage of time that the true extent of activities can be revealed.
Jekyll and Hyde
Long before his murder, Sullivan – a youth leader with both St Macartin’s Cathedral Youth Club and the Duke of Westminster High School’s Youth Club in Ballinamallard – had already become a Jekyll and Hyde character. He spent his days driving for Ulsterbus and his nights in the company of teenage boys and criminals. He played snooker with his friends at the Wellington Snooker Club on Rossorry Church Road and allowed children to use his flat in Enniskillen.
One of his victims came forward this week to reveal how the chain-smoking Sullivan sexually abused him on his school bus 12 times when he was a boy, abuse that stretched over a five-year period.
John (not his real name) told the Impartial Reporter how Sullivan first raped him on his school bus when he was 12 years old, attacking him in a lay-by early one morning near Lisnaskea.
John recalled Sullivan telling him, as he looked over his thick glasses: “I can do what I want.”
“He would appear from anywhere and at any time. It was like a game of cat and mouse. He would have taken the first victim he found. That was me, too many times.”
John believes Sullivan was not operating alone. On one occasion Sullivan tried to force John to get into his car and when the teenager refused Sullivan sped off almost crashing into traffic. About 15 minutes later, another man driving a van pulled up claiming that John’s uncle had asked him to collect him.
“I was told to get into the van. It never dawned on me what was going to happen until he asked me to pull back the floor mat where he had a load of pornographic magazines.
“I was abused there and then. The irony was cruel. I finally stood up to Sullivan only to be met by another.
“There was no way he would have known about me had it not been for Sullivan. That is why I am convinced a paedophile ring was in operation,” John said.
Teenage boys were regularly seen entering and leaving Sullivan’s flat. Police believe he may have been involved with businessmen and professionals in a paedophile ring. These men include some well-known people, including some in positions of trust, who probably thought their secrets would never be unearthed.
Since the Impartial Reporter first published details of the case a few weeks ago, as part of a campaign to raise awareness of historical sex abuse, many victims have come forward to tell their stories.
There’s the man who was raped by several men in toilets in Enniskillen from February 1987, beginning when he was 12 years old.
“I came outside and was actually physically sick on the floor. I wasn’t really sure what had just happened to me,” he said.
“In that alleyway there was nobody and those toilets were empty, only for those men, and I would turn up and then I started seeing other boys there that I would’ve been at school with.”
Police closed an investigation into his claims due to a “lack of evidence”. He turned to alcohol and drugs and has suffered with his mental health ever since.
Then there’s the man who revealed how his attacker, a family friend and prominent businessman, made him watch pornography before sexually abusing him while his wife and children were on holiday.
“I couldn’t believe it, I covered my face and went to the place in my mind I had trained myself to go to. I just wanted my mum to come and save me but I was entrapped in something I didn’t want to admit I even knew about,” said Brian (not his real name). On another occasion the abuser took him to a country lane near Devenish Island and raped him. He was 14.
Five years ago, Brian went to the Police Service of Northern Ireland but his case was dropped by the Public Prosecution Service due to a "lack of evidence".
Another person to come forward in recent weeks is Karen (not her real name) whose life spiralled out of control after she was repeatedly raped by her brother 30 years ago.
The woman, who has discovered her son was also abused by the same man, recalled when and where the abuse of her first started. She even remembered the colour of the bedsheets. Brown. Her brother was 15 at the time, she was 11.
“I can still see the big room, the double bed, the single bed. I can remember the brown bedspread, brown blankets, the walls were papered but there was one wall that had gloss paint. There was one window with brown curtains and a net curtain. The carpet was brown as well.
“And then it all started. I was 11 when my brother called me into his bedroom to give me a cigarette. Then asked me to touch him,” said Karen.
She claimed she knew of up to nine other victims of the same man and said when both she and her son reported the abuse to the PSNI in 2013 and 2014 the cases were dropped, again, due to “insufficient evidence”.
“It eats away at you like a cancer. Just imagine your heart being ripped from your chest and getting physically sick and not knowing where to turn when your own child tells you they were abused by the same person,” she said.
Questions for authorities
There are many questions now for the authorities. Who murdered Sullivan and why? Why was he never prosecuted for his abuse? Were claims of a paedophile ring ever properly investigated?
This week the PSNI’s public prosecution branch offered to meet the sex abuse victims who have been coming forward.
In a statement, Detective Chief Supt Paula Hilman said: “I am aware of the coverage relating to historic child sexual abuse cases covered by the Impartial Reporter in recent weeks. I would like to offer to meet with any of these victims to explore these incidents further.”
In a statement, a spokeswoman for Translink – which runs Ulsterbus – said in view of the “extremely serious matters” raised by the reports it had contacted the PSNI and was in the process of informing the educational authorities and other appropriate bodies about the claims.
Senior members of the PSNI are to be challenged by the Policing Board on this matter, while chief constable George Hamilton has taken a personal interest in these revelations.
Those sex abusers still living in Co Fermanagh who may have thought they got away with it may well expect a knock on the door from a police officer soon. The past is finally catching up on them.
Rodney Edwards is deputy editor of the Impartial Reporter and has spent the past number of weeks investigating historical sex abuse in Co Fermanagh