BRAVE VICTIM Young woman reveals how she has been forced into hiding after reporting rapist to gardai
Woman suffered years of abuse and threats before bringing rapist to justice
A BRAVE young Traveller woman has revealed how she has been forced to go into hiding after her testimony landed her rapist uncle behind bars.
Courageous Winnie McDonagh (23) endured six years of threats and abuse after reporting vile Patrick (Podge) Cawley to gardaí for raping and sexually abusing her over a four-year-period.
On Tuesday, Winnie finally got justice when 49-year-old Cawley, who had branded her a liar, admitted his guilt and was jailed for six years.
In her only interview, Winnie, who was placed with Cawley as a four-year-old child after her own mother died, reveals how:
- She thought of Cawley as her 'daddy' - until, at the age of 14, he began raping her two to three times a week;
- The attacks happened in fields, in graveyards around Drogheda and, on one occasion, in a hotel;
- The beast branded Winnie a 'liar' after she came forward - sparking six years of threats against her;
- And she was forced to flee the Republic with her children over fears her uncle's supporters would attack her.
"My mum died when I was four years old and me and my two sisters were sent to live with him and his wife," Winnie told the Sunday World.
"They were looking after me, I looked up to both of them, I called them mommy and daddy.
"They had 13 children of their own and, after my mum died, there was me and my two sisters as well.
"My aunt was controlling, but she was keeping us on the right road and she didn't know what was going on.
"And I couldn't come out with it, because I was surrounded in the house by people who I grew up thinking of as brothers and sisters - but, at the end of the day, they were his children."
Speaking of the nightmare she endured from the age of 14 at the Cawleys' bungalow home on the Ardcath Road in Garristown, Dublin, she said: "Basically, he would just carry me off in the car the whole time with him.
"He'd always wait until my aunt was gone and then he'd bring me to fields, graveyards and all places like that. He did it in a hotel in Ashbourne when I was about 14. But it was mostly in and around Drogheda.
"It happened probably two or three times every week. And it went on for years.
"I asked him to stop over and over and he just wouldn't.
"It went on from when I was 14 until I was 18 - and it only stopped then because that's when I left the house. I suffered with depression for years and years and people used to just make a laugh out of me.
"They used to say I was stupid, but the truth was I just couldn't come out with it, I couldn't turn to anyone.
"How could I tell anyone in the family? I couldn't turn to any of them.
"He destroyed my whole life, they were my brothers and sisters and I haven't talked to them in years."
After fleeing the hell Cawley was putting her through in Garristown, Winnie moved in with another aunt, only for Cawley to phone relentlessly looking to speak with her.
"When I went to my aunt's he kept ringing and ringing looking for me," Winnie recalls. I told my aunty that I didn't want to talk to him. And she was like: 'What's wrong with you?'
"And then one night, when I went to bed, because I was suffering with nightmares and depression, I just got my aunt by herself and I told her.
"She was crying, she was so vexed. She drove me to another uncle's house and I told him what had happened as well. He told me I needed to get proof, not that he didn't believe me, but that I was going to need to get proof this happened.
"So I rang him (Cawley) off my uncle's phone and told him what he'd done to me was wrong and that I was going to tell people.
"And he said 'ah don't do that, it would be stupid and only cause a load of trouble'. And that's how my uncle and all believed me - because it (the phone call) was recorded."
Speaking of her long battle to get justice for the abuse, Winnie continued: "It took six years to get this to court. There were lots of threats on Facebook and stuff against me, against my aunt and against my uncle.
"He (Cawley) put his hand on his son's grave and swore he didn't do it. And he did that in front of everybody. By the end of it all he had all these people sticking up for him.
"After I gave my evidence I think he knew he was caught - he pleaded guilty. To this day, they (his supporters) are up on their phones threatening they are going to do this and do that. They threatened everyone - threatened my uncle, threatened my aunty, called me names saying it was my own fault.
"If they found out my address God knows who would land up at the door. But I've proved myself … He ruined my life in every way … but I'm a stronger woman now out of it all," said the mother of three.