Sex abuse of girls brings eight-year prison term


A 60-year-old Wexford farmer was sentenced to eight years in prison yesterday for sexually abusing two young girls for several years.

Edward Ryan, who is single, of Boderan, Campile, admitted six sample counts of indecent assault and two of unlawful carnal knowledge of his niece, Ms Nuala Murphy, when she was aged between nine and 14 in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

He denied 16 counts of indecent assault of another girl, aged between nine and 13, over a four-year period from 1981. A jury at Wexford Circuit Court, however, found him guilty on all counts yesterday following a two-day trial.

Ms Murphy told the court that he had begun sexually abusing her when she was four and by the age of five she had lost her childhood. The abuse continued over many years but she "didn't tell a single soul" until she was 23.

"I felt really ashamed. I felt it was a mortal sin, and this weighed really very heavily on me. I had nobody to turn to, nobody at all," she said.

Judge Olive Buttimer told Ryan that, while in Ms Murphy's case he had at least "put his hands up", he had put his other victim through the ordeal of giving evidence and queried her account of events. She had no doubt of the wisdom of the jury, however.

Both Ms Murphy and the other woman were strong people who, she hoped, would be able to put the abuse behind them. "But nothing you or anybody else can do will give them their childhood back," she said.

She imposed a five-year sentence for the unlawful carnal knowledge of Ms Murphy, and three years for the indecent assault offences, to run consecutively. A three-year concurrent sentence was imposed for the indecent assault of the other victim. She suspended the final two years of the overall eight-year sentence.

Sgt Barth Slattery of Duncannon Garda station, who investigated both cases, said Ryan had abused Ms Murphy over a number of years at various locations including his farm, the bedroom of a relative's house and the bathroom of her family home.

At the age of 13 she feared she might be pregnant and he had told her she could have an abortion if she was, although it turned out not to be the case. He also booked into hotel rooms with her as uncle and niece and abused her there, and when she objected he told her he loved her and it was "OK".

He also threatened her that if she told anyone, he would commit suicide by blowing his head off and he would leave a note telling people it was her fault, he said. Sgt Slattery agreed with Mr Robert O'Neill, defending, that Ryan had made a full statement admitting the offences when contacted by the Garda.

Ryan's abuse of the other victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had had a very traumatic effect on her, he said. She was now very fearful of him and did not want to have anything to do with him.

Ms Murphy, who waived her right to anonymity, said she returned from the United States, where she now lives, in 1987 to confront Ryan.

Ms Murphy's brother, Mr Simon Murphy, of The Hollow, Ramsgrange, received an eight-year sentence at the same court on Wednesday for sexually abusing her and three other victims.