Woman ‘lost childhood’ over years of sexual abuse by father

Mike Dwane

Reporter:

Mike Dwane

Barrister Pat Barriscale said that Oliver Haskett had sold an investment property for �166,000 and given the proceeds to his daughter
A LIMERICK woman who suffered years of sexual abuse at the hands of her father has described how she “lost her childhood” over the dysfunction in her family.

A LIMERICK woman who suffered years of sexual abuse at the hands of her father has described how she “lost her childhood” over the dysfunction in her family.

Businessman and former guesthouse owner Oliver Haskett, 61, of Westbury, Clare, was remanded in custody and told he would be jailed by Judge Carroll Moran after pleading guilty to 12 counts of indecent assault between January 1988 and December 31, 1990 and to a further 20 counts of sexual assault between September 1991 and December 1995.

The offences occurred at the former family homes in Foynes, Kilcornan and Adare and the abuse began when his daughter, Sheila Ryan, was five years old.

Mr Haskett hung his head throughout a hearing at Limerick Circuit Court during which details were heard of how his daughter had tried to kill herself because of the abuse she suffered.

Ms Ryan, a 36-year-old mother-of-two, waived her right to anonymity and in her victim impact statement described how she had overdosed on alcohol to forget the abuse and recalled a number of occasions on which she had been hospitalised for alcohol poisoning.

“I feel I underachieved in my Leaving Cert because of the turmoil in my life. My Leaving Cert results affected my college and career prospects and I still feel aggrieved about this,” she said in the statement read out by Michael Collins BL, prosecuting.

She had binged and purged, starved herself and been treated for eating disorders. When she began her own sexual relationships, she would suffer “flashbacks” of the abuse she had suffered.

And she described the family dysfunction where her father sexually abused her and her mother “facilitated” it.

Ms Ryan received counselling to this day and was on medication for depression, Judge Moran was told.

She described the atmosphere in her home growing up as one of “correction and control” exercised by her father, who was the dominant figure in the household.

Evidence was given of how she was once beaten over incorrectly pronouncing the word “length”. After being chastised and beaten she was brought into her father’s bed for what she now knows was abuse.

Ms Ryan’s mother would keep a “bold list” which was given to her husband at the end of each day, when he would administer punishment.

Evidence of the sexual abuse included incidents where her father would get her to touch his erect penis; where he would take photographs of her naked; where he would undress, inappropriately touch and “French kiss” her; and an occasion on which he touched her breasts in a room of the B&B Haskett ran in Adare.

Ms Ryan told gardai of an incident when she was 17 where Haskett rubbed his erect penis against her naked body and vagina.

Garda Elaine Freemantle said the investigation into the abuse followed a letter Haskett wrote to his daughter in September 2008 in which he apologised for abusing her for years.

There had been no contact between father and daughter since Sheila Ryan had broken off relations in March 2008, Pat Barriscale BL, defending, told the court.

The accused had sold an investment property for €166,000 and given the proceeds to his daughter “in recognition of his wrongdoing”.

Mr Barriscale outlined counselling and treatment undertaken by Haskett at the Granada Institute and with a consultant psychiatrist in Limerick and reports from these professionals suggested he was at a low risk of reoffending.

Haskett understood he was facing prison and “hopes that once he has served his sentence he can get on with the rest of his life and wishes his daughter does so as well”, Mr Barriscale said.

Judge Moran said he would have to consider what was “a particularly serious” case in some detail before passing sentence on October 24.