How one woman has found the strength to fight for justice
This is a true story about a girl suffering sexual abuse at the hands of her parents and “others” in Ireland in the 1970′s.
Cynthia Owen grew up in Ireland, went to the local convent school, said her prayers and took her first communion with all the other girls in her class. But behind the façade of respectability lurked a hideous reality.
Cynthia was just eight years old when she was first sexually abused and raped by her father amongst others
At 11 years old, Cynthia was drugged and made pregnant by her father, when the baby was born Cynthia watched in horror as her own mother murdered the tiny infant, named Noleen, by repeatedly stabbing her with a knitting needle. Cynthia’s mother then wrapped the baby girl in a plastic bag, dumped her in an alleyway and made her daughter go back to school and pretend nothing had ever happened.
Her parents even sold her repeatedly to a local paedophile ring of which 3 members were local police officers, one of these officers was present on the night of the murder and worked on her murder case but has never been brought to justice
After enduring many more years of rape and violence, Cynthia came forward and reported her abuse and Noleen’s death.
Six of the alleged ring are still alive and living in communities, but we cannot identify them for legal reasons.
One is working directly with children. Another works as a gardener, while the other two masquerade as respectable pensioners. A further member of the ‘ring’ is a taxi driver who regularly ferries children in his car and the last is a former council worker and avid church goer. All are accused of buying children for ritualistic sex that allegedly occurred in a number of properties in the Dalkey area over a prolonged period of time.
Her childhood was a brutal hell, with sexual abuse and vile secrets as common, ordinary and everyday as the love and security found in most families
Cynthia Owen, now 51, was routinely raped by her father, sexually abused by her mother, and drugged with tranquillisers so a group of strangers could have sex with her.
And throughout all these horrors, she was just a child.
In this appalling catalogue, there is one event which stands out for Cynthia and which she waited 34 years to prove.
Cynthia had a baby when she was 11. But she claims her mother stabbed the newborn girl to death with a knitting needle, dumped the body in a lane, and told Cynthia to forget it ever happened.
Nobody will believe you, she taunted Cynthia. Youre mad. Youre a liar.
That Cynthia has been able to carve out a stable and loving life for herself as an adult is remarkable, given these beginnings. But that is exactly what she has done, with a long marriage and a grown-up son to her credit.
Not that its been easy, given the terrible ghosts of her past.
For most of the time it feels as if my son and husband are living in the past with me, she says, but we try hard to maintain a normal home life. I protect my son from the details of my childhood, but its hard.
Cynthia was so profoundly traumatised it took her more than 20 years to go to the police and it was 12 more years before the inquest into her baby daughters death took place, in 2007.
The jury unanimously named Cynthia as the mother of murdered baby Noleen, who was born on April 4, 1973 in Dalkey, South Dublin, and stabbed to death the same day.
Living with Evil written by Cynthia
I staggered out of the inquest feeling elated and emotionally battered, Cynthia recalls.
I had finally proved I had a baby when I was 11 who was murdered, but I wasnt sure Id got justice for Noleen.
Cynthia felt cheated because her mother, Josie Murphy, had died before justice was finally done. She died laughing at me.
She never served a day behind bars and nor did my father Peter Murphy, who died in 2008. And there are other men still alive out there who abused me but who have never been convicted so my victory was bitter-sweet.
Cynthia was one of nine children raised in a two-bedroom council house.
She went to convent school, and her council worker father sat in church when she took her First Holy Communion.
But behind closed doors Cynthia was suffering unimaginable abuse, which started around the time she was seven. Her father raped her almost daily, even at Christmas as her siblings played downstairs.
I thought that it was what all daddies did, she says, and when I complained to my mum, she said he was just rolling round drunk in the bed.
The evil didnt stop there, and soon Cynthias mother was sexually abusing her too. There was no escape, says Cynthia.
I lived like a zombie, and spent my days trying to block out the abuse. My nerves were always jangling, I was so afraid.
Cynthias mother Josie drank all night and slept all day, insisting the house be kept in darkness with black blankets pinned over the windows. The house was filthy and cold, and Cynthia was always dirty and lice-ridden.
The neglect alone was shocking, says Cynthia. My parents spent all their money on cigarettes and alcohol. When Cynthia was 10, the abuse escalated. Her mother drugged her with Valium then took her to a building in the middle of the night. Inside were a crowd of men, including her father, all dressed in black cloaks.
I was subjected to what I now know was ritual abuse, she says. I was confused because of the drugs but it happened once a month, and money changed hands.
The abuse had an inevitable consequence Cynthia was almost 11 when she started feeling ill.
I complained to my mum about funny feelings in my stomach and she coldly replied that I was having a baby, that it was going to be a freak, and that I was to say nothing.
I was so terrified, I obeyed her, and tried to hide my bump under a smock coat.
Cynthia gave birth at home on the bedroom floor at 4 Whites Villas, now dubbed the Dalkey House of Horrors, to a baby she called Noleen.
Both parents looked on, then argued about who was going to kill the baby.
In the end Cynthia claims it was Josie who stabbed the newborn girl 40 times with a knitting needle. She thought my dad was the babys father, says Cynthia, but Noleen could have been fathered by any of the men abusing me at that time.
Cynthia blacked out after giving birth, but later her mother dragged her out to dump the baby in a plastic bag in nearby Dun Laoghaire. Two schoolboys discovered the body the next day, and there was a TV appeal for information.
The following years were a nightmare for Owen. The abuse continued. She says she got pregnant again at 15 and gave birth prematurely to a stillborn baby. She began drinking heavily. “My mother was evil,” says Owen. “I also think she was mentally ill. She would pit all of us children against each other and single some out as her favourites. She decided I was the baddest all. I think it’s because I used to question why she had 60 cigarettes a day while we went without socks and toothbrushes. Also, I was the only child that looked like her. I had her red hair and green eyes, while all the other children were dark. I don’t know if that was some kind of trigger.”
Cynthia was ordered to say nothing and go back to school and the murder remained unsolved. There was no let-up in the abuse, however, and Cynthia eventually left the family home at 19.
She moved away, determined to turn her back on the evils of her past.
Cynthia met and married Simon, the man she calls her saviour, and proudly raised her son Christopher*, who is now 22 years old. She was haunted by her childhood experiences and was determined to see justice done, but Cynthia was in her 30s before she felt strong enough to go to the police.
I needed my parents and the other paedophiles to pay for their crimes, she says. I couldnt let them get away with it for any longer.
A complicated legal battle followed, with the authorities refusing to prosecute because of a lack of evidence, and Cynthia accusing the police of a cover-up.
The ghosts of their past haunted Cynthias siblings too. Her younger brother Martin hanged himself at the age of 27, and her brother Michael died in mysterious circumstances at 29.
Theresa, 33, who was raised as Cynthias sister but was actually her niece, hanged herself too, leaving behind a suicide note detailing the sexual abuse she and Michael had suffered at the hands of their father.
Cynthias new book, Living With Evil, tells the shocking story of her childhood, and she hopes it will force the authorities to re-examine her case.
She explains: I am not a scared little girl any more. I am very proud of what I have achieved, and I will not stop until all my abusers are behind bars.
She is proud of her husband and son, but says family life is not easy. I am eaten up with guilt for trying to get justice for Noleen I feel my son and husband suffer for it, but they have never asked me to stop my legal battle.
“What happened robbed us of a normal life. My husband was only 21 when I met him and I had Christopher already. Within a year of us being together I was sterilised because I couldnt cope, emotionally, with having more children.
“From then on my husband knew he would never have children if he stayed with me, and I feel guilty that I took that away from him.
Cynthia, who has a successfully completed a university course but is unable to work because of post-traumatic stress and depression, adds: The day-to-day can be a struggle, but I have built a safe and stable family life which is helping me to heal and to cope.
Cynthia Owen mother of baby girl: verdict
A jury in an inquest into the death of a baby girl almost 34 years ago has reached a unanimous verdict that the child was that of Cynthia Owen.
The jury also found that the place of death was a house at White’s Villas in Dalkey on 4 April 1973.
The jury cannot apportion blame to any person due to the Coroners Act of 1962 and so returned an open verdict.
The infant died as a result of shock and haemorrage due to multiple stab wounds.
The Coroner Dr Kieran Geraghty thanked the jury for their deliberations.
He then called Cynthia Owen into the witness box and she broke down as the verdict was announced.
She was supported by her husband Simon as she told the court that she had given her child the name Noleen.
The coroner then formally recorded that Noleen Murphy was the infant found stabbed to death 34 years ago.
A number of members of the jury cried as their verdict was formally read out.
Earlier the Dublin County Coroner, Dr Kieran Geraghty, told the jury that this inquest was not a criminal trial and he said the level of proof required for an inquest jury to bring in a verdict was not the same as ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ in a criminal trial.
The jury had been asked to determine whether ‘on the balance of probabilities’, the mother of the infant is Cynthia Owen, who alleges she was the victim of repeated sexual abuse as a child.
It took the jury of six men and six women less than five hours to reach the unanimous verdict.