The brave victims of a paedophile grandfather and brother have waived their right to anonymity in order to expose his crimes.
Ivan Russell, aged 65, whose address was given to the court as Carbet Road, Portadown, was jailed for six years last Friday in Craigavon Crown Court after a jury found him guilty of abusing his young granddaughter.
He had previously pleaded guilty to sexually abusing his own sister, Mrs Margaret Brown, 40 years ago when she was aged just 13-years-old.
Russell is regarded by many as a hard-working, church-going pillar of the community, but he was harbouring a dark secret - the sexual abuse of his own granddaughter and his sister. Rebekah Russell was aged 17 when her grandfather sexually assaulted her causing the schoolgirl to suffer mental anguish after the holiday from hell.
Her grandparents had taken her and her two brothers to Crete in 2016. She recalls how her grandfather got drunk and, at the hotel bar near a pool table, he seriously sexually assaulted her.
She felt unable to reveal to anyone what had happened to her as she feared her grandfather would have tried to cover it up. Then in late December 2016 she revealed her experiences to one of her teachers at Portadown College.
At Craigavon Crown Court last Friday, after being brought into the dock, handcuffed, Russell sat impassively - without a flicker of emotion throughout the proceedings.
His wife and a small group of supporters sat on one side of the courtroom, while his victim, his now 21-year-old granddaughter Rebekah, her parents, siblings, uncle and aunt sat on the other side of the courtroom.
Judge Roseanne McCormick said Russell had admitted the abuse of his sister during a NEXUS counselling session on December 19, 2016. The counsellor informed the PSNI who traced the victim to her home in Canada. She initially was reluctant to make a statement but when she had heard her young grand-niece had made a complaint, she revealed what had happened to her and gave a statement to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Mrs Brown was just 13 and her paedophile brother was aged around 20/21 when he crept into her bedroom at home and sexually assaulted her.
The court was told the defendant started abusing her four to six months after his first child was born when he lived across the road with his wife. Judge McCormick said: “The defendant had pleaded with her not to tell their father.”
The offending continued when the defendant’s second child was born and when the victim had been babysitting the defendant’s children.
“It ceased when the defendant became a Christian and he apologised to her after the youngest child was born,” said the judge.
Judge McCormick pointed out that when Russell was first confronted with the sexual abuse of his sister by police, he denied it and said he has nothing to apologise for.
The judge pointed out that this was a breach of trust as he was an older brother and he had committed a series of assaults on his sister.
“She carried her secret from age 13 to age 57, however, the abuse had an effect on her life and she regrets she hadn’t come forward sooner.
She had said in her Victim Impact Statement: “I feel Ivan took my innocence at 13. I will never understand why he did it.”
Judge McCormick said it was a full 40 years later when Russell abused his own granddaughter while they were on holiday in Crete. “She was just 17 years old when the offences occurred. The offences were carried out near a bar and pool table when the defendant had consumed alcohol.”
Judge McCormick said the victim had suffered with her mental health and had physical symptoms due to the offence.
She said the victim had suffered socially and had stayed away from school and lost friends from the strain of hiding what had happened.
Judge McCormick said that she hoped the guilty verdict may help her come to terms with what happened to her.
“Her complaints have been vindicated by this process. There are no mitigating factors,” said the judge, adding that the defendant’s wife had supported him throughout the proceedings and he had references from Edenderry Presbyterian Church where most of his work had been carried out. Russell has a previous offence for rioting.
The judge said safeguarding procedures will be put in place by social services in relation to future contact with his grandchildren.
She said Russell was entitled to consideration in relation to his plea on the charges relating to his sister - ‘albeit at the last minute’.
However, she said Russell was guilty of an abuse of trust in relation to his granddaughter and the fact that he failed to plead guilty means there are no mitigating factors.
Judge McCormick convicted Russell for a total of two and a half years for the abuse of his sister Margaret Brown.
On the first count of indecently assaulting Mrs Brown, when she was just a child, on a date unknown between January 1, 1974 and September 3, 1974 he was given a 12 months jail sentence.
On the second count of indecently assaulting Mrs Brown on a date unknown between January 1, 1974 and September 3, 1976, he was sentenced to 12 months jail.
On the third count of indecently assaulting Mrs Brown on a date unknown from September 3, 1975 to September 3, 1976 he was given a six month sentence. All three sentences are to be served consecutively - a total of two and a half years.
On count five, that he, on a date unknown between August 16 and August 23, 2016 he intentionally sexually touched his granddaughter Rebekah Russell without her consent - he was sentenced to 12 months in prison.
On the last count, that, on a date unknown between August 16 and August 23, 2016, he intentionally sexually abused Rebekah Russell he was sentenced to five years in prison.
The latter two sentences are to run concurrently to the first three - resulting in a total of six years in jail.
He was also placed on the sex offences register for life.
STATEMENT FROM THE VICTIMS
The victims of Ivan Russell - his sister Mrs Margaret Brown and his granddaughter Rebekah Russell - issued a statement.
“After consulting with friends and family, we have made the uneasy decision to waive our anonymity so that the perpetrator can be publicly identified, the truth be heard and those most cruel to us can finally be silenced.
“We hope our decision to waive anonymity will also encourage others who are victims of sexual abuse to come forward.
“The selfish and monstrous actions of one man, who was a brother and a grandfather, have left deep and lasting scars on both of us but we now at least have a measure of justice.
“We are delighted and relieved that we can finally put this difficult experience behind us and move on with our lives.
“We are grateful to the PPS for taking on this case and for the excellent representation of our barrister Mr Joseph Murphy. We would especially like to thank Detective Constable Ross for her commitment, diligence, compassion and professionalism in investigating our cases and bringing them through to successful prosecution. Her effort on our behalf will never be forgotten.
“We would also like to pay tribute to the love and kindness of the family members and friends who supported us through these tough and dark days. Above all we would like to give thanks to God for his vindication and for the justice now received by the perpetrator.”
Editor’s note: The current householder at the address given for Ivan Russell has asked us to point out they have no connection with the case above.