sex assault | 

Former Jehovah's Witness elder convicted of second sexual assault on a child in Cork

He went on to try to befriend his victim's 12-year-old daughter on Facebook
Josef Keys

Josef Keys

Alan Sherry

THIS is the artist and former Jehovah's Witness elder jailed for sexually assaulting a young girl in the 1980s.

Josef Keys (81), with an address at Hazelwood Close, Glanmire, Co Cork, carried out the attack on the girl when she was aged between six and eight in the 1980s.

His victim came forward recently to report him after Keys contacted her 12-year-old daughter on Instagram in an incident Judge Dara Hayes described as an aggravating factor in the case.

Keys was previously given the Probation Act for a separate sexual assault on a different victim in the 1990s.

He appeared in Cork Circuit Court earlier this month where he pleaded guilty to the 1980s incident and was sentenced to 15 months, with nine months suspended.

He started the sentence on Monday after asking for a few days to get his affairs in order.

Keys, who is originally from the UK but has lived in Cork since the 1970s, is a well-known artist who held classes for children and adults.

He stopped giving art classes to children a decade ago after a separate victim came forward to say he had sexually assaulted her in the 1990s.

Keys posted two messages on his website after he was questioned in relation to the 1990s incident.

"I am no longer teaching children's art classes but if you email me, I can give you name of a teacher in the Cork area," he wrote.

He also said "due to a change in circumstances" he was no longer teaching art classes abroad.

Keys was given the Probation Act in 2014 in relation to the 1990s offence.

While he no longer taught classes to children after pleading guilty to the 1990s offence, he continued to teach adults and sell his paintings.

However, he recently tried to befriend a 12-year-old girl on social media who was the daughter of a woman he had sexually assaulted in the 1980s when she was a child.

This contact prompted the woman to go to gardaí and make a complaint about Keys.

Keys, who was around 40 at the time of the assault, brought the victim in his car and placed her on his lap, telling her he would teach her to drive.

He then became sexually aroused and sexually assaulted her.

In her victim impact statement, the woman said: "The legacy of having been sexually assaulted as a child impacts me every single day. I am hyper-vigilant to any risk to mine or my family's safety. When you tried to friend-request [my daughter] on social media, I realised you had not changed. That is the reason we are here today.

"I hate the fact that because I was abused as a child, this impacts how I am as a mother. I am paranoid about my daughter's safety. The world was not a safe place for me when I was a child because of you."

Keys has previously spoken about how he has been an active Jehovah's Witness for decades. He said he grew up in Kent in England and along with his now late wife Susan became a Jehovah's Witness in the 1960s before coming to Ireland to spread was he described as "The Truth" in 1973.

"She also became a baptised servant of Jehovah and, with me, volunteered to move to Cork, Ireland to help people - mostly Roman Catholics - get to know the Bible better. We served full time for five years, until our first son was born.

"To then support ourselves we took on part time work as painters and art tutors and served together in the Cork congregation until she died seven years ago from cancer. We followed Bible principles in our married life and were close friends till the day she died."

Josef Keys with his late wife Susan

Josef Keys with his late wife Susan

Keys said his spiritual side was very important to him.

"I have found going out to voluntarily help others in a spiritual and practical way, and giving them a Bible-based hope for the future, has kept my feet on the ground… I have also been blessed with a very close relationship with Jehovah, my God."

Keys is an accomplished painter who has work in private and public collections in Ireland, the UK and the USA, and would regularly answer questions about his work online.

Last year he responded to a question on whether it was OK to like art made by a terrible person.

"Picasso has done some incredible art from his earliest representative paintings to his later abstract work," he said. "His work has been sought and bought by collectors and investors for millions.

"But my wife tried to read a book by one of his many wives and mistresses but she had to stop half way through as she wrote about how awfully he treated her, and of course, his other wives and mistresses, and it so deeply upset her that she couldn't carry on reading it anymore."

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