“When we heard he had got four and a half years we were surprised but delighted.”
Former Eucharistic Minister Bernard McNamee is beginning a four-and-a-half-year prison sentence after he groomed and sexually abused a young boy several times in the 1990s.
In July, a remorseless McNamee, when confronted by the Sunday World, boasted he had no fear of going to jail, whining that he was already a prisoner because he couldn’t go anywhere since he’d been convicted.
Days before he spoke to us at his front door in the Victoria Bridge area of Strabane, he had been convicted of three counts of indecently assaulting a boy on dates between August 1991 and January 1993.
The 62-year-old creep put his victim through a trial at Dungannon Crown Court and during sentencing last week a judge described the former church helper’s behaviour as “disgraceful, despicable activity”.
Residents and parents of St Eugene’s Primary School, just a few metres away from where McNamee was living, contacted us to complain about his presence in the area.
But having been banged up for more than four years, they rejoiced at the pervert being removed from their midst.
“Everyone was worried he was going to get off lightly because you read so many stories where they only get a suspended sentence or community service,” said one dad whose child goes to the nearby primary school.
“When we heard he had got four and a half years we were surprised but delighted. We are still not happy he was allowed to live right beside a school and we are concerned about what happens when he gets out but we’ll worry about that then.
“I know some parents have complained to the school and to the police about him living around here. For the meantime it’s just good riddance.”
At his sentence hearing last week, Dungannon Crown Court heard McNamee would visit the boy’s parents, bringing sweets for the children clearly grooming him.
Judge Peter Irvine QC told him: “You set out to groom the victim to ingratiate yourself. You were in a position of trust as a family friend. You took advantage of a vulnerable young boy.
“These offences were clearly planned. You were a mature adult and you abused a child. You have no remorse.”
The victim provided an impact statement which read: “A man I trusted and looked up to stripped me of my childhood innocence. I went from being outgoing and social to a recluse.
“I find it difficult to trust people outside my family. I suffer nightmares thinking Bernard McNamee is in my home.”
McNamee will remain on the sex offenders register indefinitely and will be subject to a Sexual Offences Prevention Order for 10 years.
When we called at McNamee’s door after he was convicted he disturbingly answered wearing a red fleeced top with a local community association badge depicting two young kids playing together.
He also had a statue of the Child Jesus, better known as the Child of Prague, on display in his front window. Pope Benedict XVI said of the famous statue that adorns many homes across the world: “The figure of the Child Jesus, the tender infant, brings home to us God’s closeness and his love.”
We asked McNamee if he had anything to say to his victim now he’d been found guilty by a jury but he replied: “No comment, I don’t want to comment on the case, it’s not finished.”
When asked if he was worried about going to prison when he is sentenced he replied: “No, I’m not worried about going to jail because I’m already in jail. I can’t go out anywhere or do anything.
“I’m already serving a prison sentence and it’s not right.”
The victim told the trial earlier this year he felt special as McNamee paid him particular attention, buying him comics and leaving chocolate bars beside his bed.
McNamee proceeded to ask the victim to stay overnight at his home, but his mother refused.
However, having been groomed by sweets and comics, the victim pleaded with his mother, who eventually agreed.
McNamee collected the boy and drove to the home he shared with his mother and brother.
The boy was taken to a room with both a single and double bed.
McNamee told the victim to sleep in the double bed and later got in beside him.
The boy woke around 2am with an “uncomfortable feeling” and discovered McNamee fondling his genitals.
Upset, the victim ran to the bathroom which woke McNamee’s mother.
She checked on the victim who said he had a sore head and wanted to go home, but she told him it was too late and sent him back to bed.
Following this incident, McNamee continued to call with the family, always leaving a chocolate bar by the victim’s bed.
On one visit McNamee consumed alcohol, and unable to drive, stayed the night, sleeping in a spare bed in the victim’s room.
During the early hours the victim again woke to find McNamee fondling his genitals while kneeling by his bed.
A third incident occurred when McNamee again spent the night and despite sleeping in a spare room, crept into the victim’s bedroom and sexually abused him.