A Derry dad has spoken of his devastation after discovering the man he thought was a family friend, had been sexually abusing his daughters.
The father, who we cannot name to protect the identity of his children, was speaking after Thomas O’Bryan, whose address was given in court as Tennyson Avenue, Bangor, was sentenced to six years for the abuse, at Portsmouth Crown Court on June 26.
O’Bryan, 65, who is originally from Derry, was found guilty of three counts of gross indecency on a child under 14 and four counts of indecent assault against a female. The offences took place in the Portsmouth area where both families lived in the 1980s. The girls were aged just 6 and 7.
“I unwittingly trusted the treasures of my life to a monster,” the girls’ father said.
“I would never have suspected his vile acts and practices of obscenity. I have had my precious, precious girls’ innocence plundered right under my very nose and I have mulled over and thought about that and hated myself for the past 33 years.”
He urged parents never to trust their children to anyone else or let them go for sleep overs.
“Don’t let your children go, if there’s something I can advise parents now, it’s not to trust their children to other people no matter how much you think you know them.
“The shadow of this abuse hangs heavily over us and I don’t believe it will ever go away. It is like we have been injected with poison.”
The man revealed that O’Bryan began visiting the family home when they moved to Portsmouth in the 1980s.
He said when his daughter turned 13 she told her parents what had happened. “Out of the blue she came down the stairs balling and crying,” he said. “She told us Tommy had been interfering with her.”
He said they questioned their older daughter about whether she had been abused but she told them nothing had happened.
“My older daughter didn’t want to talk about it,” he said. “She was going to take it to the grave with her.
“The police visited Tommy O’Bryan but he denied it. It was her word against his.”
The Derry dad said the abuse had an horrific impact on his younger daughter’s life and she spiralled out of control. “It is a deep regret to me that the accusations made in 1989 were not better investigated and recorded,” he said.
But just recently his elder daughter spoke up about the abuse. The trial was held in Portsmouth and O’Bryan was found guilty.
The judge in Portsmouth sentenced O’Bryan to six years ordering that this sentence run consecutively with a previous sentence handed down by Downpatrick Court in January.
“I will never get over the guilt that I trusted this man,” the dad said. “I thought we were the best of friends but now I realise the thing we had in common was access to my girls and that was the full extent of his friendship with me. A lot of years have passed but the hurt is always present.”
The man said that after the court case his girls said they would never talk about the abuse again.
“My daughter told me that she didn’t care if O’Bryan was found guilty, but it was enough that she was able to talk about what happened.
“I would generally be known to be a calm and laid back person but you will probably hear in my words the extent of my depression, rage and lack of understanding of this issue.”