herald

Thursday 21 November 2019

'Pervert scout leader took me in woods and told me ghost stories before he abused me'

  • Brave victim waives his anonymity as monster jailed
  • Six-and-half years for man who molested up to 40 boys
Brave Robert Keogh was abused by David O’Brien when he was at a scout camp in Co Wicklow in the 1970s. Photo: Owen Breslin
Brave Robert Keogh was abused by David O’Brien when he was at a scout camp in Co Wicklow in the 1970s. Photo: Owen Breslin

One of the country's most prolific paedophiles, who abused as many as 40 young boys on camping trips when he was a scout leader, can be unmasked.

David O'Brien (67) groomed and isolated the children before molesting them and warning them not to tell anyone of the abuse that he carried out over two decades.

He was jailed yesterday for six-and-a-half years for indecently assaulting four boys between 1972 and 1981, having previously been sent to prison for the abuse of six other boys.

Speaking exclusively to the Herald, O'Brien's youngest victim, Robert Keogh, who waived his right to anonymity, urged more victims to come forward, and said he expects his abuser to die in prison.

Terrify

Mr Keogh was only seven when he was molested by O'Brien while on his first camping trip in Co Wicklow in the early 1970s.

He described how O'Brien would tell the children ghost stories to terrify them before exploiting that fear and abusing them.

"It was all very insidious. He would bring you out and pick you out and alienate you, he'd tell you ghost stories. 'The Blue Lady' was one," Mr Keogh said.

"He would terrify you in the forest in the dark, the noise of the animals, the whole thing was just terrifying.

"Even to this day, when I bring my own children out for a walk, the noise of the wind and the trees in the park always reminds me of him.

"I'm just glad it's put to bed now - it's dragged on for so long. It was very hard to come forward because it's bothered me all of my life.

David O'Brien
David O'Brien

"He was hoping to get the longest sentence possible so he can die in the Midlands Prison. He's being fed and looked after.

"If I get sick I've to pay for a doctor. He gets free medical aid.

"He's 67 now, he looks a lot older. He'll die in prison."

Mr Keogh also praised the work of Detective Garda Neil Plunkett, who he said worked tirelessly on the case.

Yesterday, Judge Karen O'Connor sentenced O'Brien, of Benburb Street, Dublin, to a total of eight years' imprisonment with the final 18 months suspended.

Dublin Circuit Court heard how one of the victims reported the abuse in 1997 and O'Brien was interviewed.

The paedophile told gardai that, while he did not recall the alleged abuse, he was not denying it.

O'Brien also told gardai that at that time he was "molesting" a number of young boys in the scouts, and the molestations had been going on for 10 years.

He said he left one scout group when a parent confronted him, but a friend got him into another where he continued to molest boys.

A file was submitted to the DPP and a direction was given not to prosecute the case, but the file was re-submitted when more victims came forward.

When O'Brien was re-interviewed about the allegations in 2016, he admitted abusing between 30 and 40 boys.

He had already been given a four-and-a-half-year prison term in October 2015 for the sex abuse of six young boys, and that sentence expired last February.

He has since been held on remand for the more recent charges.

Giving evidence, Det Gda Plunkett said Mr Keogh was assaulted by O'Brien on a camping trip with the cub scouts in Larch Hill, Co Dublin, in 1972 or 1973.

He was held back after an evening walk by O'Brien, who then molested him.

Secret

After the assault, O'Brien held the victim tight and told him it was their "little secret".

The child cried himself to sleep that night and refused to return to the scouts after the trip ended.

Det Gda Plunkett said the second victim was aged seven or eight when he joined the cub scouts group, of which O'Brien was the leader.

This victim went on a camping trip with the scouts, but he could not recall the exact location.

Just before the scouts went on a hike, the child was pulled aside by O'Brien and asked if he needed to urinate.

The child said no, but O'Brien instructed him to take out his penis anyway and began to grope him.

Before the two caught up with the rest of the group, O'Brien again instructed him to take out his penis and he again molested him.

That night, O'Brien instructed the victim to sleep in his tent and during the night he reached into the child's sleeping bag and groped him.

He then attempted to further molest the child, but did not penetrate him.

Det Gda Plunkett said the third victim rejoined the cub scouts when he was around 12 and O'Brien was the leader of the group he joined.

This victim was first abused during a camping trip to Roundwood in Co Wicklow.

The child woke up O'Brien one night and told him he had wet the bed.

All the scouts on the trip had been told by O'Brien to come to him if they had a problem.

O'Brien told him it was OK and instructed the child to get into his sleeping bag with him.

During the night, O'Brien subjected the child to serious sexual abuse.

The following night, the child was instructed to sleep beside O'Brien, and during the night he again molested the child.

A similar incident happened on another camping trip in Powerscourt, Co Wicklow, during which O'Brien again unzipped the child's sleeping bag and molested him.

Det Gda Plunkett said the fourth victim went on a camping trip to Longwood, Co Meath, in the summer of 1981, and O'Brien was the only scout leader present.

On a particular night, the boys were making a lot of noise in their tent and O'Brien called this victim into his smaller tent.

When the child woke up later that night his pyjama bottoms were pulled down to his knees and O'Brien was molesting him.

The victim thought that O'Brien was naked from the waist down and was rubbing against his back.

The following morning, O'Brien said he was sorry for what happened but that he should not tell anyone about it.

Judge O'Connor said the case was aggravated by the breach of trust and three of the victims being warned not to tell of the abuse.

Fault

She said the victim impact statements outlined the "significant detrimental ongoing impact" on the men and that the offence involved four individual victims.

The judge gave O'Brien consecutive jail terms totalling eight years and suspended the final 18 months.

She commended the investigative work of Det Gda Plunkett, and told the victims: "None of this is your fault.

"You were young children on a scouting trip, and none of it is your fault.

"I sincerely hope the future is brighter than the pain you've gone through in the past."

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