Buncrana man sexually abused two sisters 30 years go

Two Inishowen sisters who were sexually abused waived their right to anonymity at Letterkenny Circuit Court this week.

Both Cathy and Caroline Brady declared their intention to be named after the accused changed his plea from not guilty to guilty on Tuesday.

Leo McFarland, 57, with an address Oak Grove, Millfield, Buncrana pleaded not guilty to 53 charges of indecent assault against Cathy and Caroline Brady at an earlier court sitting. This week he changed his plea to guilty and was re-arraigned on 11 charges.

The sexual assaults against the two sisters who were friends of his daughters took place more than three decades ago. The offences were alleged to have taken place at Farland’s former home at Convent Road, Carndonagh. The two families lived close to one another.

One sister was aged between five and seven and the other was between seven and nine when the abuse took place. The sisters claimed the assaults happened two to three times a week.

They said the assaults ended after the youngest daughter told her mother what had been happening. Their mother told McFarland that the assaults would end. The girls no longer visited the house after that and the family of the accused moved away in the following months. The assaults are reported to have taken place between April 1983 and December 1985.

The sisters claim that some of the assaults involved them playing a ‘sweet game’ with McFarland in which he would ask them to put their hands in his trouser pocket to find a sweet. His pocket would have a hole in it and the girls would touch his genitals. The youngest of the two sisters told the court that the man would often give her sweets after he assaulted her.

Giving evidence at Letterkenny Circuit Court, the woman said she was in the same class at school as the daughter of the accused and they were best friends. Her older sister was best friends with another sister.

She said the assaults began when she had just turned five and stopped a few weeks before her First Communion when she was seven years old. The assaults would happen in the middle of the kitchen where the accused had a chair and also in a bus which was parked at the back of the house. The assaults in the bus would happen when the mother of the house was at home and the victim and her friend were asked by the father to help him clean the bus. She said that on one occasion when the man was abusing her on the bus she could hear her mother calling her to come home but he continued with the abuse and would not let her leave. She said the abuse has had a severe effect on her life. She took an overdose, has had an addiction to alcohol and had been referred to a counsellor. “It destroyed the eight years of my marriage with my husband, affected my children and still does,” she said. Circuit Court Judge John O’Hagan asked both women to compile separate victim impact reports in relation to the case. The judge said that both women could return to court and outline how the incidents affected them. McFarland was released on continuing bail pending sentencing in April.

Judge O’Hagan ordered that McFarland be placed on the sex offenders’ register.