April 8, 2014

A retired farmer has been found not guilty of sexually abusing his nephew in a holiday home in Downings.

Retired farmer Sam Cunningham was found not guilty of sexually assaulting his nephew.

Retired farmer Sam Cunningham was found not guilty of sexually assaulting his nephew.

Samuel Cunningham, 66, was accused of four counts of sexual assault against his then 14 year old nephew at a holiday home in Rosguill in 1993.

The alleged victim, Patrick Cunningham, now a 35 father-of-four, claimed he was assaulted when he went to do repairs with his uncle on the holiday home at Rosguill, Downings.

Patrick Cunningham says he was fondled and that his uncle performed oral sex on him at the farmhouse.

However Samuel Cunningham stressed “There is no way on this earth I would have done that to any young person. If I thought I had done that I would have taken myself out the back and shot myself.”

Today after 50 minutes of deliberation, a jury of eight men and four women found the accused not guilty on all four charges of alleged sexual assault.

When the verdict was read out, Patrick Cunningham’s family sobbed in the court.

The alleged victim, who waived his right to anonymity, had claimed the alleged sexual assaults were sparked when water was splashed on his trousers when they were fetching water from a well.

“He told me to take off my clothes because I would get a flu. He then made a makeshift bed on a sofa.

“He said there were only a few blankets in the house and told me to get in beside him,” he said.

Mr Cunningham then alleged the four assaults took place.

Sobbing in the witness box at Letterkenny Circuit Court, he said he counted flowers on some curtains to block out the pain.

Patrick Cunningham said he kept the alleged assaults to himself until a number of years later when he told his cousin Seamus.

He said he became introverted after the alleged assaults.

He also partially blamed the assaults for falling in with the wrong crowd and eventually being convicted of two armed robberies in Northern Ireland.

However he said he used his time in jail constrictively to study and became the first prisoner to get day leave to study for a diploma in Environmental Science at university.

However the accused, Sam Cunningham, denied that any such assaults ever took place between December 1st, 1993 and January 31st, 1994.

In fact, the retired farmer from Glenside Road, Dunmurray in Belfast, said he always spent the New Year period at his late wife Rose’s family home in Cavan.

He alleged that his own son Francis along with the alleged victim Patrick and his cousin Seamus had now formed a “team.

“This is the worst thing I have ever witnessed. The devastation to the family who have been turned upside down has ben unbelievable.

“The only thing I can think of is that the want to keep me away form my farm,” he said.

A niece of Mr Sam Cunningham, Mrs Doreen Robinson, said she does not believe the holiday home was even in the possession of the family claiming it had been sold in 1992

She also said she not believe the allegations against her uncle.

“I don’t believe it. A paedophile does it over and over again and doesn’t stop after just once,” she said.