Stepdad's suicide after case re-opened

Published Tuesday, 01 May 2012
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The stepfather of a disabled girl, who died after being allegedly sexually assaulted by a grandparent 11 years ago, took his own life six weeks after police re-opened the case, a jury has heard.

Stepdad's suicide after case re-opened
Rebecca McKeown, who was blind and incontinent, died in March 2001. (© Pacemaker)

Taking the witness box in Belfast Crown Court, Mrs Cheryl McKeown told the jury of seven men and five women that her late husband Steven died by suicide on 10 March, 2008.

Under cross examination from her mother's defence SC Philip Magee, she further revealed that he had tried to take his own life in front of her on two previous occasions and his personality had "changed completely" after he suffered a stroke in 2002.

Mrs McKeown's elderly parents, 88-year-old David Johnston and his wife Sarah, aged 86, from Carwood Drive in Newtownabbey are charged with the manslaughter of her 14-year-old daughter Rebecca on 24 March, 2001.

They are also accused of a further offence of child cruelty five days beforehand on 19 March.

The jury have already heard that Rebecca had a plethora of life-limiting medical conditions including spastic cerebral palsy and scoliosis of the spine.

Registered blind, she had severe epilepsy and was confined to a specially moulded wheelchair, could neither walk, talk nor eat for herself and required round the clock care.

The teenager, who had the body mass of a six-year-old child, died after contracting pneumonia.

According to the prosecution, this came as a direct result of an alleged sexual assault she suffered at the hands of one or other grandparent.

During her earlier evidence, the jury heard Mrs McKeown describe how Rebecca did not seem distressed or crying out until she was examined by out-of-hours locum Dr Donnelly.

Mr Magee put a document to Mrs McKeown which was written by a social worker three days before Rebecca died where 'social worker one' had written: "Mother says that something happened to Rebecca when Dr Donnelly examined her."

She agreed that at the time that is what she believed - but further agreed with the suggestion that due to the medication she was taking in the aftermath of her daughter's death "things were a bit of a blur" at times.

Mrs McKeown told the court she could remember the preliminary enquiry last year, but not when defence lawyers had cross examined the locum doctor when they had been "very critical of Dr Donnelly's behaviour on this occasion".

The trial continues.

© UTV News
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