‘Someone Helped Him, He’s Living Free In America’


From top: Karen Leach, Derry O’Rourke and George Gibney

This afternoon.

On RTÉ’s Liveline.

Karen Leach spoke to Joe Duffy about the abuse she suffered at the hands of former Irish swimming coach Derry O’Rourke.

She also spoke about fellow former Irish swimming coach George Gibney.

Readers will recall how, in November 1997, at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, O’Rourke, who was represented by Patrick Gageby SC, pleaded guilty to 29 sample charges of sexual abuse against 11 young swimmers, on numerous occasions between 1976 and 1992.

Judge Kieran O’Connor was told O’Rourke originally faced 90 charges.

The court also heard O’Rourke tried to hypnotise some of his victims.

In January 1998, O’Rourke was given a 12-year sentence.

Karen told Liveline that she didn’t tell anyone about how O’Rourke abused her until after he was jailed.

She said the abuse destroyed everything in her life and that her heartbroken mother later took her life.

She also mentioned another Irish swimming coach George Gibney who had sex abuse charges against him quashed after a 1994 High Court judicial review.

Karen said:

“Derry O’Rourke was my swimming coach, the Irish Olympic coach at the time also and I swam from the age of about 10 to 17. I had a dream as a little girl and my dream was to swim for Ireland at the Olympics, that’s all.

“I believed I could do it. My mam and dad believed that I could do that and he knew what my dream was. He took full advantage of that from me and many other swimmers in our swimming club.

“He’s not the only swimming coach that  has abused swimmers in Ireland. It started with my training. Everything he said, everything that he wanted, he got. No one answered back Derry O’Rourke. He was god.

“He was given the power by people and adults, the Irish sports organisations, the government, everybody. He was given the power and in that power, he took it to abuse me and many other children.

“It destroyed my life and I lost everything, absolutely everything. It’s only this year, 2017, that I’m talking to you as Karen Leach, 100 per cent, back in my mind, heart, soul and body.

“I spent 37 years in prison because of what that man did to me. He got 12 years concurrent for 18 girls and many more that have contacted me since I went public, have never, weren’t able to come forward and speak. He was out after nine years.

George Gibney did the same to his swimmers in Trojan [swimming club]. He, someone helped him, he’s living free in America. He never faced anything.”

“It started when I was 10. I’m 48, it’s only this year that I’m free of it. That’s what I mean: 37 years of prison.

“Not only for me but my dad died five years ago, a devastated and heartbroken man.”

“When he was sick in hospital and dying, I knew he was dying, I told him that I loved him, he was the best dad ever and he looked at me and said ‘I don’t know about that, Karen’.

Sixteen years ago, after the court case, my mam told me on the Thursday that she loved me and that she was sorry she didn’t look after me as a little girl. I got a phone call from the guards on the Bank Holiday Monday saying my mam was taken out of the canal by a farmer.

“She was heartbroken. My dad was heartbroken. My family is broken.”

“I spent many years in hospital, I had to be locked up and put away in order to be kept alive because of the many suicide attempts that I had because, as a result, I couldn’t live with what he did to me. It destroys, it takes everything from you when you’re child.

“It’s the same, to me, it’s the same as murder.

“Derry O’Rourke murdered my heart, my soul, my mind, my body as a little girl, he took my childhood away. There are many children living in this country that have been murdered as children from child abuse and didn’t make it to be an adult because they couldn’t live with it.

“I’ve survived the suicide attempts, I’m here, I have my voice, I now am going to speak for every child in this country to ensure that they do not live or end up with a life like mine.

“I also speak for anybody that’s been abused. Some people that have not been able to come forward and speak because they’re still too scared. They think they might not be listened to, might not be believed, I speak for those people too.

“I will not, now that I have my voice back, ever allow anyone to forget about what happened to us.”

Karen Leach

Previously: Two And A Half Years

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