A weekly newspaper’s investigation has prompted police to probe a historic paedophile ring – but the force has refused to reveal what it knew about sex abuse by a murdered bus driver who was allegedly involved.
The Impartial Reporter began looking into claims of a suspected paedophile ring in Enniskillen after a man came forward to the paper two months ago claiming to have been abused as a schoolboy by multiple different men.
Since then other victims have come forward, with many naming former school bus driver David Sullivan, who was murdered in 1998, as one of the men to have abused them.
No-one has ever been convicted over the killing, and the Police Service of Northern Ireland has repeatedly refused the Reporter’s requests to provide answers into what officers knew about the alleged attacks he carried out in the decades before his death.
However, PSNI has confirmed it has now met with those who came forward in the wake of the Reporter’s investigation with the intention to “explore these incidents further”.
Reporter deputy editor Rodney Edwards told HTFP: “What started as a look into a suspected paedophile ring in Enniskillen has evolved into a major investigation into historical sex abuse in towns and villages across Fermanagh.
“The number of alleged victims to have come forward to us is now in double figures. More and more victims who previously felt powerless are bravely revealing how they were sexually abused as children.
“In many of these cases victims were let down by the authorities, including the police, with some victims advised by officers not to pursue their complaints. There are serious questions for the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
Rodney added: “We have been heartened by the response of our readers. As we continue our long-running series, new information about these wicked crimes is coming to light and new witnesses are coming forward to speak to us and to the police.
“We hope that at some point in the future these men and women who destroyed the lives of very many people in Fermanagh are held accountable for their despicable actions.
“We do not intend to stop this investigation anytime soon and will continue to give victims a platform and ask questions of the authorities without fear or favour.”
The Reporter has repeatedly asked to PSNI to clarify precisely what police knew at the time of Sullivan’s murder about the allegations against him.
Last Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the force told the paper: “The case of the murder of David Sullivan remains unsolved and a review into his murder was conducted in 2003. Currently there are no active lines of enquiry but as with all cases, this position will be reviewed should new evidence come to light.”
However, head of public protection branch Detective Chief Superintendent Paula Hilman has confirmed that her team have been responding to reports of sexual abuse in the Reporter.
She told the paper: “Since meeting with the Impartial Reporter we have begun making contact with victims who have bravely come forward to report what happened to them and we will continue to do so to establish the extent of the reports of historical sexual abuse cases.
“I continue to make the offer for my team of specially trained detectives within Public Protection Branch to meet with any of these victims to explore these incidents further.”
In a video statement on the PSNI website, DCS Hillman said: “One of the roles of Public Protection Branch is to investigate historical child sexual abuse. Following recent reports we have started an investigation into historical cases in the Fermanagh area.
“We are taking this very seriously and I have appointed a team of specialist child abuse detectives and officers to work on this.
“Currently we are reviewing evidence and speaking to victims and this will take time. We will take that time.
“As head of Public Protection Branch, I, and detectives working alongside me, are committed to supporting victims and ensuring we thoroughly investigate these reports of historical sexual abuse whether in Fermanagh or other parts of Northern Ireland.”