Priest accused of sex abuse of three sisters

Story by Tom Kelly

Wednesday, 28th April, 2010 5:00pm

Priest accused of sex abuse of three sisters

A priest accused of sexually abusing three young sisters allegedly went on to rape one of them when her parents sent her to him for counselling over her affair with a married policeman. Father Eugene Lewis has gone on trial at Omagh Crown Court on 11 counts of indecently assaulting the girls at their home in Fermanagh between August 1963 and September 1973. He denies the charges.

Opening the case for the prosecution, Ken McMahon, QC, told a jury of six men and six women they would hear about other offences allegedly committed in the Republic of Ireland but there were no charges in relation to those because it was a different jurisdiction.

He explained that 75-year-old Lewis was ordained a Catholic priest in Cavan Cathedral in 1958 and was a member of the Society of Missionaries of Africa, or the White Fathers as they are known because of the way they sometimes dress. They used to have a college in Blacklion. The girls' uncle was a White Father and members of the order used to visit the family home in Fermanagh. The parents welcomed them as men of "distinction, knowledge and learning" who would broaden their children's education and learning. Among the visitors was Lewis who, apart from his intellect, having studied at home and abroad, was a great story teller to the children.

The lawyer said one of the sisters would tell the court that Lewis always seemed to call when it was bedtime and on a Saturday night, which was bath night. The first time she remembered anything inappropriate taking place was when she was seven or eight. Her father was sitting at one end of the kitchen table and Lewis at the other. The priest invited her to sit on his knee. He pulled her tightly to him and manoeuvred her around until she could feel what she thought was "a hard stick" but now realised was an erection.

Mr. McMahon said the now grown woman would tell the court this happened on several occasions.

Mr. Mahon told the jury they would hear that after that the priest rarely called at the house and if he did she avoided him but when she was 21 she had an affair with a married policeman. The circumstances of the affair came out and her parents called Lewis and asked him to try and talk some sense into her. They made her go down to the White Fathers' base at Templelogue in Dublin. The court heard that he raped her two nights in a row "despite her begging him to stop".

Mr. McMahon told the court: "She didn't shout or scream; she was traumatised."

The following day the girl's sister had her engagement party in a big room at the White Father's house in Templelogue. When they returned to Fermanagh the arguments about the affair resumed and the girl told her father that Lewis did a lot worse to her than the policeman. Her father hit her and they did not talk about it again.

Mr. McMahon said that not long after that the girl met a man and they married. She never told her husband about the abuse. She told her mother about the abuse but was too ashamed to tell her about the rape. Her mother told her that if she wanted to make a complaint to consider her uncle, a priest and White Father. The girl did nothing at that stage but years later met the policeman with whom she had the affair and went to the Gardaí in January 2008 and the PSNI in May 2008.

The QC told the jury that another sister was also sexually abused when she was seven or eight.

He told the court that when police interviewed Lewis about the allegations he told them: "I never touched those children. It's a total fabrication."

Mr. McMahon told the jury that in response to the rape allegation, Lewis said he remembered giving the alleged victim a lift to Dublin but said he handed her over to another priest and was not in the house on the night in question.

The trial is continuing.

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