Church elder convicted of sex abuse

Published Friday, 23 October 2009
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A church elder was convicted on Friday of indecently assaulting a 44-year-old mother when she was a child, while his cousin and fellow elder was acquitted.

The Antrim Crown Court jury of six men and six women found 66-year-old John William McConaghy - a church elder known as Jack - from Urbal Road, Dervock, of all but one of 21 charges of indecently assaulting the mum-of-one.

The abuse was said to have taken place when she was a P7 schoolgirl, up until she was 18 when she rebelled against his abuse.

The wheel-chair bound elder, who was put on the Sex Offenders' Register, was told that he will be sentenced at the end of next month after both a pre -sentence on him, and an impact report on his victim are obtained.

McConaghy showed no emotion as at first he was acquitted of indecently assaulting the girl while she was sitting on his knee in her home when she was aged about ten or eleven.

During her evidence to the ten-day trial the woman, who claimed that her abuse at McConaghy's hands was so prevelant that she thought such behaviour was "the norm", accepted that his touching of her could have been accidental on that specific occasion.

The church elder remained sitting quietly in his wheel-chair however, as the 'madam forewoman' of the jury read out their guilty verdicts to the next 20 charges of indecent assault.

The next four charges, which were also specific counts, the jury convicted him by majority verdicts of 11 to one.

However, he was unaminously convicted of the remaining 15 specimen charges committed between May 1975 and May 1983.

The pensioner, a church elder from 1977 and a Sunday School teacher for over 30 years, had denied all charges against him, but the jury by their verdicts have rejected his pleas of innocence.

Giving evidence on his own behalf McConaghy had said of the sex abuse allegations: "I totally deny them .... That's untrue.... It never happened, never.... I says that's totally untrue .... That's completely false ... That never happened".

In turn the jury have accepted the evidence of his victim who said McConaghey's abuse "mostly pettered out" after she rebelled when she was aged about 18 and she struck back at him, scratching his face as she fought him off.

She said the elder even "had the nerve" to complain to her mother about the scratch, to which her grandmother remarked: "well you didn't get it for nothing".

The woman said that after that McConaghey must have come "to realise that I was getting a bit old or brave" for him as the abuse soon stopped.

Also on Friday, it took just over three hours for the jury to unanimously acquit McConaghey's cousin, 53-year-old farming church elder John McElheran from Ballinlea Road, Stranocum, of the four charges of indecent assault he denied.

"I'm very, very relieved," admitted the elder of Ballycastle Gospel Hall, in Co Antrim, who added, "The Lord is my shepherd".

© UTV News
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