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Paedo school bus driver who carried out sickening sex attacks named

Leo McFarland asked to be re-arraigned on 11 counts and pleaded guilty to each of the charges (Pic: Independent)
Leo McFarland asked to be re-arraigned on 11 counts and pleaded guilty to each of the charges (Pic: Independent)

A PAEDOPHILE who carried out sickening sex attacks on two sisters when they were aged just five and seven has been named after his victims waived their right to anonymity today.

School bus driver Leo McFarland, (57), 2 Oak Grove, Millfield, Buncrana, Co Donegal, had pleaded not guilty to 53 charges of indecent sexual assault against Cathy and Caroline Brady.

However on the second day of the trial today before a jury at Letterkenny Circuit Criminal Court, McFarland asked to be re-arraigned on 11 counts and pleaded guilty to each of the charges.

Judge John O’Hagan asked the victims if they wished to waive their right to anonymity.

Cathy, now 37, and Caroline, now 39, stood up and replied together: “Yes.”

Cathy Brady was due to have been cross-examined today.

During the first day of the trial last Thursday she told the jury how McFarland, her best friend’s dad, played what he called ‘The Sweetie Game’ when sexually assaulting her at least once a week over a two year period from when she was just five.

Patricia McLaughlin, prosecuting, told the jury the victims lived on the same street as their attacker, Convent Road, in Carndonagh, Co Donegal.

The attacks took place between April 1983 and December 1985 inside the McFarland home and sometimes in McFarland’s minibus parked outside the home.

Cathy sobbed as she told Judge John O’Hagan how the neighbour abused her, giving the sexual assaults different names.

She said she was best friends with one of McFarland’s daughters and was always in his house.

McFarland referred to one series of attacks as ‘The Sweetie Game’.

This involved her being called into the kitchen of his home where he had a chair.

“He would ask me to look for sweets in his pocket,” said Cathy, who said there were no pockets in his trousers.

“All you felt was skin. He would tell me to move about more, to squeeze it.

“He would take us in turns. My friend had to wait in the hall. When he was finished with me he would call her in.”

These incidents, she alleged, happened every two or three days. After each incident, she claimed the defendant went to a cupboard and gave her sweets.

In other attacks in another room and in a vehicle he would ‘play the touching game’. These were more serious sexual assaults in which she had to stand with her back to the defendant whilst the attack took place.

Cathy said during one attack in the minibus, her mother had called for her from their home nearby.

“My mum was calling me to go home; he would not let me go and told me not to say anything when I went home,” said the victim who is now a married mother of four.

She said the abuse only stopped inadvertently.

“It was a few weeks before my first communion. I mentioned something to do with games, my mum got quite suspicious and said can you explain the games – and I told her something,” said Cathy in her evidence.

She said her mother, now deceased, went to see Leo McFarland and they were warned never to go into McFarland’s home again.

McFarland and his family moved eight or nine months later, she said.

She had made an initial complaint to the gardai seven years ago but had withdrawn it because she was still friends with her abuser’s daughter.

Cathy said she had turned to drink in her adult life and had taken an overdose and reported the allegations again in 2010.

Judge O’Hagan today put McFarland on the Sex Offenders Register and released him on continuing bail.

The judge told Cathy and Caroline to prepare victim impact statements for a sentencing hearing in April.