I know that place.
“Stop Mick, I know that place. That’s Inchadonney Spa Hotel in the background? It is, it bloody is. And go back to the last series. Yes, that’s Courtmacsherry Bay. Over the other side is where we go gathering muscles and cockles. Well would you credit it? A local girl. She doesn’t look like a native. Looks like one of those Scandinavian blonde beauties. What age would you say Mick? Thirteen, twelve maybe?”
“Could be but they are often younger than you’d imagine. She could be ten. You are right about Inchadonney. I can see it now you mention it. Boss, do you suppose they were just visiting or is it a local operation? Not that it matters. This stuff is carefully done. Nothing illegal here. Damned obvious where it’s aimed. But there’s nothing we could do unless the kid was being abused in some way? Still it’s a surprise. I thought all this stuff was middle European or USA. West Cork is a surprise.”
“Yes, Mick, it is but let’s not get distracted. So far everything on here is non-nude stuff, yes?”
“Yes Boss, but you know as well as me, where we find this we also find hard-core stuff. It’ll be buried somewhere here. I’ll find it. Give me a few hours. I still get shocked by this; I mean a Priest.”
Detective Inspector Jim Burrows of the An Garda Síochána Special Detective Unit had been assigned to Anglesea Street Garda Station, Cork. He was to investigate allegations of clerical child sex abuse in the Diocese of Clyone. He had been pleased to be coming back to live and work in Cork. However, the assignment had been unwelcome in other ways. Jim knew he was being set up to take the fall if the thing went bad politically. This was not so surprising. He’d been handed sensitive stuff before and knew damned well the reason. He was an outsider, a blow-in. And nominally a Protestant too, even though he practiced no religion. “As a non-Catholic you will be seen to be impartial, Inspector Burrows,” was how his Superintendent had put it. Yea and I can also be accused of sectarian bias if I uncover stuff you’d rather remained buried, he’d thought in response to that.
Jim Burrows had just turned fifty and had been a police officer for thirty of those years. He’d started in the Royal Ulster Constabulary but got disillusioned by the sectarianism and political bias in that force. He left to go to the Metropolitan Police in London. There, he’d moved to the CID and had shown flare and ability. He quickly rose in the ranks and made Detective Inspector at just thirty. He might have gone further but for the break up of his first marriage. He’d taken that badly and work suffered. He resigned and came to Cork to live and start a new life. He had applied to the Irish force: An Garda Síochána but had been turned down twice. At the interviews, the reason for that was made abundantly clear, the tone of the questions being hostile. The officers speaking to him were sectarian and obviously operated a closed shop. They didn’t want outsiders and especially they didn’t want Ulster Protestants no matter how well qualified. And the fact of his Irish passport and non-sectarian views did not sway them.
Jim had gotten in eventually using a successful and age-old method: nepotism. He had met and later married a Cork girl, whose father happened to be a District Commissioner of An Garda Síochána. This had been, in all ways, a happy accident. Biddy and he had both been through failed marriages and they had recognized each other as soul mates instantly. The romance had been whirlwind and the marriage followed within a year. Her family was not happy about a civil wedding service, but it was the only kind open to divorcées. They learned to accept it and the tall, softly spoken Belfast man who joined their big family. After a quick and intensive course in Irish, Jim went to the Garda College at Templemore in Tipperary. He graduated top of his intake and then shot up through the ranks.
Jim was a natural detective, intelligent, inquisitive and watchful, with a natural understanding of what made people tick. He could read people and situations well and nothing ever escaped his notice. The smallest details of a scene would be retained for use later. This made him very successful but very unpopular with his colleagues. He was too good, too efficient and too much of an outsider. Once he’d joined the Special Detective Unit at Harcourt Street, Dublin, he found a niche, which suited him very well. He was able to use his colleagues’ perception of him as an outsider to his advantage. He had ended up doing a lot of the dirty jobs that were politically sensitive or that involved internal security. His success rate was unrivalled and unarguable. This job was the trickiest and most sensitive yet. Clerical child sex abuse was a real hot potato and no one wanted to touch it. Only a rising tide of public outrage had forced action and Inspector Burrows had been given a unit of three to tackle the problem in one of the largest dioceses in the country. It was a mammoth job and they’d been flogging it for two years. Progress was achingly slow. Obstruction from the clergy was to be expected but the resistance within the force in the Eastern District had been implacable and the single biggest obstacle their little unit had to overcome. They had one small office in the main station in Cork City. They were shunned and ostracized by the majority of Garda there.
Detective Sergeant Mick Clare was a Dublin based I.T. specialist brought in to forensically examine seized computers. He was working on a PC taken from the home of a priest. That cleric was at the centre of more than thirty alleged cases of serious sexual abuse of girls under the age of ten over a period of twenty years. Mick Clare was sitting before that PC now, going through thousands of images. The majority so far was in the non-nude category and these were in a legally grey area. Obviously sexual but not illegal in most countries. Jim would glance over his shoulder occasionally and it was while doing this he’d spotted the pictures shot in West Cork. Now he pulled up a chair beside Mick and watched the screen as he flicked through the series of images featuring the young blond girl, all branded with a BrightStarLucy.com logo. There were around three hundred pictures of the same girl wearing various outfits, both studio and at the beach. “I wonder did the priest pay for these or get them for free?” said Jim.
“No way to tell I guess unless his credit card records show it. There is such a huge volume of stuff there, I can’t imagine he paid for it all. Sometimes you can tell by the size of the images. Stuff from newsgroups tends to be decreased in size for quick uploading. These are mostly small so I guess they are groups.”
Jim pondered for a moment then asked, “Groups, what do you mean by groups?”
“Oh sorry, user-groups. They are nearly all binary images uploaded in groups based on interests. Some are cars and film stars and stuff like that but the vast majority is porn. Mostly legal stuff but there was a huge amount of child-porn. People like Yahoo have begun to try to stamp out the illegal stuff, but for a while in the early nineties there was loads of really hardcore childporn easily available there. I’ve come across tons of it. It tends to be the same stuff over and over. A good deal of it has been around for a long time. There was a real rash of stuff made in Holland and Denmark in the sixties and early seventies and that keeps popping up. The sites that advertise childporn for a fee tend to regurgitate that same stuff. I often wonder what makes these ejits hand over their credit cards to these sites to buy stuff that’s out there for nothing. Oh, that didn’t sound right boss, sorry.”
“Don’t worry Mick. I know what you meant. I wanted to ask you this. How does seeing all this stuff affect you?”
“I guess I don’t really ever look at it, not really see. I mean I see what it is but I don’t focus on the content, the people and the children. I try not to think that is a real child, who had that done to her somewhere, sometime. I sort of blank it out. Mind you I have come across a few that were so shocking I couldn’t do that and had to look. Completely vile evil stuff, like violent rape of very young children, sometimes infants, you know babies? When I see that I fume and can’t ignore it but I try to use that anger to make me do this. Get the bastards, you know? It’s a pity we tend to get the users and rarely the producers or those making the money. They’re nearly all tucked away safe in Russia and the Ukraine and places like that. That’s frustrating. Ah ha, what have we here? I bloody knew it. There is a folder tucked away here, in amongst the system stuff. Yep hard-core stuff. We have him boss.”
“Good work Mick. Get some of that on a DVD. Log it all and then let’s go see the good Father and hear what he has to say about this muck. The abuse allegations were always going to be hard to prosecute after nearly twenty years, but this is indisputable. He’s going down for this. His Bishop can’t just shift him to another parish now.”
As Burrows and Clare got into the front seats of the large Opel saloon, Mick said, “Sally is going to bitch about sitting in the back again. Maybe I’ll get in there this time. Here she comes.”
Detective Garda Sally Murphy came jogging across the car park from the back entrance to the station. She grinned when she saw Mick get in the back seat. Sally was twenty-nine years old, dark haired, a little stern looking and very lean and fit. So full of energy she always looked as if she was moving, even when standing still. She leapt into the front seat and beamed at the two men in the car. “It’s about time I got to sit up front. I was thinking of putting in a sexual discrimination complaint.”
“Bollocks Sally,” said Jim Burrows.
“Bollocks to you too, boss. Where are we off to then?”
“Going to lift and charge your name-sake priest. We got kiddie-hard-core on his PC. He’s sunk.”
“Feck! I mean is that all? Are we not going to charge him with any of the abuse, boss?”
“Not yet. Nothing really concrete yet. I don’t want him wiggling out of anything. This is absolutely rock solid and he’ll not be able to depend on his victim’s reluctance to slide out of this. While he’s away for this we might find it easier to get them talking. Make a good solid case that will stand in court. Don’t worry Sally, this will get the job done.”
“Sorry boss, not you, him. It makes my blood boil thinking about how long he’s gotten away with it. That slimy old fart was so fecking smug and sure he was untouchable. I’m going to enjoy watching him squirm. Is there any way he can claim it wasn’t his stuff. Is he really fucked?”
“No one else had access. He stated as much and so did his housekeeper. The PC is new and some of the downloaded material was from a pay-site and we have his credit card records. No, it’s solid. He can squirm as much as he likes but he’s fucked. As you so eloquently put it.”
The three were silent for a time as they drove out of Cork. As Jim came down the slip road and slowed for the junction he said, “Listen you two. There is a sergeant at the local station who is implicated in covering up allegations against Father Murphy. He allegedly intimidated a complainant into withdrawing her statement. That was nearly ten years ago but when we first began this investigation he tried to obstruct me. Refused to speak and would not even tell me where this bugger was living. That sergeant thinks he is immune and he’s about to get a shock. This is the first time this has arisen so you two won’t be aware of the powers we have. The commissioner himself has authorized me to immediately suspend without pay any Garda who obstructs this investigation or who is suspected of being complicit in the clerical cover-up. So, first stop the station. Sergeant McDermod is on duty now and I intend to give him the good news in person. You two hang back. Sally, take notes on anything he says. This could get unpleasant, one of our own. They will not take this well in the station. If we get any abuse, note who but don’t respond in any way, right?”
The three Special Detective Unit Garda spent just fifteen minutes in the Garda station. As they got into the car again, all breathed heavy sighs of relief.
“Bloody hell, boss. That was nasty. What a piece of work he is. My goodness, did you hear the language of him? How on earth did you stay so calm with him hissing all that sectarian abuse at you? I mean what the hell was he thinking. What does where you’re from have to do with the price of spuds?” said Sally looking over at Jim.
He took a few more deep breaths and then started the car and drove away quickly. “I’ll lay odds he’s phoning Murphy right now. We need to get there quick before he does a runner. That fuckwit was hoping I’d lose it and thump him, give him an out. I’m used to that kind of thing. It doesn’t get me worked up like it used to. Look, I was right. The Father is getting in his Merc.”
Jim stopped the Opel in the entrance gates just as the elderly priest was trying to reverse out. “Get him inside again. I’m going to put a call through to C and C at Harcourt Square about dear Sergeant McDermod and then I’ll be in. Get your laptop set up Mick and let’s see what he has to say about the snaps. Sally, caution him, then tape everything he says.”
The elderly priest sat silently staring at the ceiling. He didn’t look at the screen of Sergeant Clare’s laptop as the images appeared. Jim Burrows came over and sat beside him on the big sofa. “Well now Murphy, you haven’t much to say for yourself now. You had plenty to say when we were here before. You were full of outrage and righteous indignation then. The old priest turned and glared at Jim when he heard his name used without the customary title.
“Father Murphy to you,” he snapped.
“No I think not, Murphy. That title is one of respect and you have long since forfeited any right to that. The defrocking is only a formality now old-son. The Bishop can’t protect you from this.”
Jim heard Sally grunt and stifle a laugh. The priest glared at her and she stared back at him, eyes ablaze with contempt and defiance. He dropped his gaze and blushed. Jim called to his housekeeper, who he was sure was right outside the door with her ear pressed close: “Mrs. O’Shaughnessy, bring a glass of water please.”
The old man looked a little faint, as if having a blood pressure surge. His housekeeper scuttled in quickly and stood before him while he sipped the water. Jim noticed her glance quickly at the laptop and she flushed bright red when she saw what was there. Mick had been slow to close the lid and he winced and mouthed a sorry to his boss. “Thank you Madam. I must tell you that you will be alone here, as of tonight. The Diocesan office will be in touch about your future. Please go now and pack an overnight bag for your employer.”
“Because he is going to jail and will not be home anytime soon.”
She harrumphed loudly, coughed and then scuttled away again. As he said this, Jim noticed the old man looking at him. All colour had drained from his face as his defeat became overwhelming. He let out a long sigh and dropped his head. “You have been cautioned and I shall now ask; do you wish to make any statement before you are formally arrested?”
“No, no, it’s too late for statements.”
“Really? So you intend to put all your victims through the ordeal of a trial rather than admit your guilt and spare them that?” said Sally.
“What victims? They are just pictures.”
“Just pictures? No you piece of shit, no, they are children. Just like the ones you abused. Did you imagine we are going to stop with this filth? We will be continuing our investigation into your abuse of children in your trust over the past thirty years. They will feel better able to speak once they see you in the dock for this,” said Sally.
The old man seemed to sink in on himself, as if deflating. He dropped his head and muttered: “I have nothing to say.”
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