Victims of abuse in foster home feel let down over 'leniency' of abuser's sentence

There have been calls for an investigation into the case of three girls who were abused at a foster home in Co Galway.

The case has raised serious questions about how the Health Service Executive responded to the initial reports of abuse - writes rte.ie

The victims also say they are distraught at what they see as the lenient sentence given to their abuser.

In April 2016, RTÉ Investigates revealed the case of a foster home scandal in Co Galway.

At the time of the report, a man had been charged with more than 70 counts of rape and buggery of three young foster girls in the home he shared with them.

This was reduced to 39 sample charges when the case came to court and the man was found guilty on 23 of those.

To protect the victims, RTÉ did not name them or their abuser.

In an RTÉ Investigates report to be broadcast on Prime Time tonight, some of the women at the centre of the court case come forward to tell their stories publicly for the first time.

In doing so, the women have waived their right to anonymity to name their abuser as 29-year-old Keith Burke of Addergoolemore, Dunmore, Co Galway.

In recent weeks, Burke was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years after he was found guilty of raping the then three foster children between 2003 and 2007.

All three girls were under ten years of age at the time.

Warning: Readers may find some of the following details upsetting

One of those abused was Rachel Barry. In 2005, the then eight-year-oldwas sent to the home of Kathleen and Gerry Burke of Dunmore, Co Galway, for monthly respite care. There she met a long-term foster child who has asked to be identified as 'Amy'. Both Rachel and 'Amy' were raped by Keith Burke.

Speaking to RTÉ Rachel said: "Myself and 'Amy' in turns had to strip down with nothing only our socks on and while he had obviously done it to 'Amy' before, he called her over and I had to watch what was happening to her."

In May 2007, Rachel told her biological mother she had been sexually abused by Keith Burke and a subsequent HSE investigation assessed Rachel's disclosure as "credible".

Rachel also reported that 'Amy' - who at that stage had been living with the Burkes for over a decade - had been raped by Keith Burke. However, at the time 'Amy' did not disclose any abuse.

Gardaí sent a file to the DPP but no prosecution followed. 'Amy' and another foster child, a boy, continued to live with the Burke family.

Four years later, in October 2011, 'Amy' came forward and told a teacher she too had been raped by Keith Burke.

Her disclosure prompted a new garda investigation which uncovered a third victim.

'Sarah', which is not her real name, was also placed into foster care with Kathleen and Gerry Burke in 2000 aged five. She too was regularly raped by Keith Burke. 'Sarah' also witnessed 'Amy' being repeatedly raped.

Speaking to RTÉ, 'Sarah' said: "It was horrible and she was so small and she was so young. She was only a little girl and we both clicked and we both loved each other.

"I always wanted to protect her, but I couldn't, he was a beast, I was just too frightened of him."

'Sarah' left the Burke foster home in 2003but 'Amy' continued to live there until she disclosed her abuse in 2011.

At that stage the gardaí resumed their investigations into Keith Burke, leading the DPP to press charges on over 70 counts of sexual abuse. But when the case went to trial Keith Burke pleaded not guilty meaning 'Amy', 'Sarah' and Rachel were forced to take the stand and give evidence.

Last July, Keith Burke was convicted following a nine-day trial, he was found guilty on 23 sample charges, including rape, sexual assault and buggery.

Just a fortnight ago, at his sentence hearing, Keith Burke finally admitted his guilt. He was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years for the rape charges and concurrent terms of six-and-a half years and five years for the remaining charges. The final year was suspended.

'Sarah' said: "I was very angry, I thought I was fine but six-and-a-half years, seven-and-a-half years with one suspended, that's nothing and what he put us through."

Ronan Hynes -solicitor for 'Sarah' -has now called for the entire case to be investigated:

"My client and her family feel incredibly let down by a system which really was designed to protect them and serious questions need to be answered regarding both the placement and safeguarding of 'Sarah' while she was in care."

The full RTÉ Investigates report, Fostered and Failed, will be broadcast tonight on Prime Time, RTÉ One, 9.35pm.

Read more news of Dublin on our site.

rte.ie
IRELAND REGIONAL CONNACHT CRIME GALWAY
If you notice an error, highlight the text you want and press Ctrl + Enter to report it to the editor
4 views in september
I recommend
No recommendations yet

Comments

Comments are designed to communicate and discuss the features of an enterprise or event, as well as to find out the interesting questions on it.

Society
A number of Ulster Bank customers are currently being impacted by an issue with the bank’s Anytime and Mobile Banking services. In a statement Ulster Bank said that it was aware that there are some issues on its Anytime and Mobile Banking services, and that it is working to fix them. The bank advised customers that its telephone banking and ATM services have not been impacted by the problem. "We are aware that customers are currently experiencing issues lo...
Society
TWO national school teachers and an accountant have been spared jail for their part in a violent brawl in a well-known Dublin pub. Teachers Michael Davitt and Seamus O Cearra, as well as accountant Conor Shannon all walked free from court today after admitting violent disorder charges in the 10-man melee. A fourth accused, warehouse manager and soccer team captain Stephen Cantwell also avoided a prison sentence while a fifth, electrician David McSweeney wa...
Incidents
Two people have been hospitalised with serious injuries and a man arrested on suspicion of drink-driving following a collision in Co Wexford. The two-car crash happened at The Leap in Clonroche at around 8.30pm yesterday evening. A man and woman, both in their 50s, were taken by ambulance to Wexford General Hospital. The driver of the second car, a man in his 50s, was arrested at the scene on suspicion of drink-driving. He has since been released from cust...
Society
Long-standing plans to deliver hundreds of new homes on the site of the former Player Wills cigarette factory on Dublin's South Circular Road have come up against yet another obstacle. Documents lodged in the High Court showed the site's Nama-appointed receivers, Paul McCann and Stephen Tennant of Grant Thornton, are locked in legal proceedings in an effort to remove a company operating a salvage business from the site. The case relating to the tenancy rig...
Society
Health Minister Simon Harris has been told his decision on whether to grant access to a revolutionary new drug for children with a rare degenerative condition is one of life or death. Families, friends, supporters and sufferers of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) gathered outside the Dail yesterday to call for access to the drug Spinraza. The only drug ever manufactured to treat SMA, a degenerative neuromuscular disorder, it is licensed, available and changin...
Society
Storm damage at the ploughing championships has forced organisers to cancel the second day of the event. More than 100,000 people had been scheduled to attend Ireland's largest annual outdoor event outside Tullamore, Co Offaly. However, two delayed openings were not enough to save the National Ploughing Association (NPA) event, after tents were badly damaged by the gusting winds. NPA assistant managing director Anna Marie McHugh said the organisers will no...
Society
A dream holiday to Ireland turned to tragedy for a tourist who died after her caravan was blown into the sea as Storm Ali battered the country. The woman, named locally as Elvira Ferraii from Switzerland, had arrived in the Clifden area of Galway the day before the tragic incident. She rented a caravan and was staying at the Clifden Eco Beach camping and caravan site in the Claddaghduff area, along the Atlantic coastline. At around 7.45am yesterday the car...
Society
Teachers Michael Davitt and Seamus O Cearra and accountant Conor Shannon all walked free from court yesterday after admitting violent disorder charges over the 10-man melee. A fourth accused, warehouse manager Stephen Cantwell, also avoided a prison term while a fifth, electrician David McSweeney, was jailed for six months. Passing sentence, Judge Brian O'Shea said the teachers were "ambassadors for their schools" whenever they went out and they had "let t...
Society
ESB Networks says 39,000 homes, farms and businesses are still without power this morning after StormAli crossed the country yesterday. Repair crews workedthrough the night, but 1,600 individual faults remain on the network. It says it hopes to restore power to everyone affected today. ESB Networks Operations Manager Derek Hynes said most repairs are in the Cavan/Longford, Monaghan and Mayo areas. He saidcrews need to get to 1,600 locations today andwarned...