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Child Abuse

'When I heard he was dead, I felt that I could finally breathe': Victim of serial paedophile speaks out on abuse

Anne Kelly detailed her experience of abuse from serial paedophile Eamon Cooke on RTÉ Radio this morning.

A VICTIM OF serial paedophile Eamon Cooke has spoken of the years of abuse she suffered at the hands of the former radio DJ, detailing her feelings of liberation following his death in June.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Ryan Tubridy Show, Anne Kelly explained how one of Ireland’s “most prolific and dangerous paedophiles” abused her for three years, and how the experience shaped her life.

Cooke was eventually imprisoned for abusing Kelly, and others, and lately became a suspect in the disappearance of Philip Kearns.


The abuse of Kelly began in the 1970s, at age 7, when Cooke groomed her and several of her friends. After catching them in his garage, Cooke filmed the girls doing the Can Can in his garden and invited them into his house to watch the video.

“He essentially lured us from garage to garden to inside his house,” Kelly said. “That was the first time he had his hands on me.”

Over the next three years, the abuse escalated.

From age eight, they became more serious, and the more threatening and frightening he became. I was threatened that if he told my parents what I was doing, I’d be put in a children’s home.

By age nine, Cooke was taking her naked into his bed. “He liked to pair children together. He paired myself and another victim together,” she said.

Despite coming from a loving family, Anne Kelly was terrified as to what would happen at the time if her parents had found out about the abuse. When she heard how babies were conceived at age nine, her fears worsened.

“At age nine, I believed that I was pregnant and I was most certainly going to hell.”


The abuse may have stopped when Kelly was ten years old, but the next few years were marked with a sense of fear and shame.

“Cooke had the most incredible ability to engender fear,” she explained. “Adults were petrified of this man, too.”

While her parents sensed something was wrong – “my mother said she knew she’d lost her little girl” – they remained unaware of the abuse until Kelly was 18 years old. She added that parents of that generation were unaware that people like that existed.

Telling her father about the abuse, she said that she felt “deeply ashamed” of herself. After telling her father, Kelly went to the gardaí to report the abuse but “nothing was done”.

When Cooke found out that she was the complainant, he visited her in the shop she worked to threaten her.

“On the outside, I would never let him see that I was afraid of him,” she said. When she refused to serve him, he screamed “You can’t do this to me. I won’t let you do this to me”.

When he was outside the shop some time later, accompanied by a young girl, Kelly regrets not doing anything at the time to help her. “I’ve thought about that little girl for many years. I still think about her.”


Three years later, when Kelly heard that Cooke’s radio station planned to open a Child Line, she was filled with anger. She said: “I’d given up on anybody capable of dealing with this man.”

Followed by her mother, Kelly went to Cooke’s house at night to confront him. After a “rough tussle”, she said the paedophile punched her mother and then ran into his house to call the gardaí. Both she and her mother were arrested by police, but she said the case was thrown out in court.

It wasn’t until January 2000 that the gardaí asked Kelly to give a statement about Cooke’s abuse.

Seeing him in handcuffs in court for the first time was a great relief.

I felt good about that. It was just a great sense of satisfaction to see him unable to be free

Cooke was originally found guilty, but a retrial meant that evidence was required to be given twice in court regarding the abuse.

“I felt my life was only beginning to come back, but I had no choice but to go ahead with the retrial.”

Now that Eamon Cooke has passed away, Anne Kelly feels a sense of liberation at last. His final appeal against his conviction failed in 2015, so his passing in June was the first time she felt that her fear of Cooke had finally gone.

“When I heard he was dead, I felt that I could finally breathe,” she said.

She added that she had chosen to waive her right to anonymity and go public with her experience to encourage others in the same position to feel that they have nothing to be ashamed of, and can overcome what’s happened to them too.

It was a devastating experience. I’ve overcome alcoholism, depression. I want others to know that they can do it too.

Kelly closed by urging for more funding for the Rape Crisis Centre, which she says is badly needed.

Read: Woman abused by Eamon Cooke as a child says he ‘had it in him’ to kill Philip Cairns

Read: Eamon Cooke: the convicted paedophile who launched the careers of RTE legends

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