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Extract 'The destruction Davy Tweed brought to my life followed me like the shadow of a demon'

Amanda Brown shares an extract from her book documenting the abuse she suffered at the hands of her stepfather, and her survival.

Amanda Brown was born in Belfast and grew up in Ballymoney. She was thrust into the public eye when she took the stand to give evidence against her stepfather Davy Tweed, former Ireland and Ulster rugby player, and her brave testimony went a long way to securing his conviction on a litany of serious sex abuse charges. Tweed died in a motorbike crash in 2021.

Amanda has since engaged with the Department of Justice and the Victims of Crime Commission as part of her work advocating for other survivors of sexual abuse. The following extract is from her book NO PEACE UNTIL HE’S DEAD — My Story of Child Abuse at the Hands of Davy Tweed and My Journey to Recovery, published by Merrion Press… 

MY COUSIN GEMMA told us that my stepfather Davy Tweed had abused her too. She had been to the police and spoken to them about the abuse she remembered. It wasn’t enough to make a case.

They were sorry, but the memories she had were blurry and childish and she couldn’t make head nor tail of them herself, except for the deep hurt of being sexually assaulted by someone you trust when you don’t even understand the world around you.

I always describe childhood abuse as memories that make themselves known like pieces of a jigsaw flung out of the box. There is nothing more, a lot of the time, than snippets of memories, weird flashes of happenings that haunt you and frighten you, but you don’t know what those are.

Gemma really wanted to be heard, but because of how the police were at that time, with no trauma officers, she was in effect silenced. They told her that her statement would not be added to a file against Davy. She felt the pressure of that more deeply than any of us recognised at that time. There were now eight little girls who had been abused by Davy that we knew of, including myself, my four sisters and Gemma.

Every one of us was dealing with bad mental health, every one of us was suffering and struggling to make sense of what had happened to us. All of us were being stared at, talked about, pointed at, called liars. Nobody seemed to be pointing at Davy. Nobody was making his life difficult. In fact, from what we could see, he was being patted on the back more than pointed at, he was being applauded as a great man. I think, at least for me, that was the worst part about it.

My cousin Gemma had her eighteenth birthday and we surprised her. Back in my mum’s house, with a few drinks in us, we found ourselves opening up a little. ‘I hate him,’ Gemma said, and she burst into tears. ‘I hate him as well,’ I said, ‘I get it.’ ‘I can’t even tell you what he did,’ she said, ‘it hurts too much to say it.’ ‘I get that as well.’ ‘Sometimes I feel like nobody believes me,’ she said. ‘I believe you,’ I said looking her dead in the eye. ‘The feelings I get from those memories,’ Gemma said then, ‘I don’t think I can live with them.’ ‘I know what you mean,’ I said then. But later on, I would learn that I didn’t.

A cloud of trauma

When Davy was finally convicted for his abuse, the sentencing was set for 25 January. Davy was to remain in custody until then and so the city I lived in, and the town my mum lived in, took on a new freedom I hadn’t known before. I felt like I could go where I wanted and do what I wanted and there was no fear.

Then on Sunday, 13 January, just under two weeks before the sentencing, I got one of the worst phone calls of my life. ‘It’s Gemma,’ my mum said. ‘Oh, Amanda, she killed herself. She hanged herself.’ ‘She can’t have, I don’t believe it,’ I said. ‘She can’t have, we won, we beat him.’

Deep, twisting rage in my belly. I couldn’t believe it. My beautiful, funny cousin, not yet 21 – what had she done? I was angry about this situation, this court case. Everything that we had focused on had taken our attention away from her and put it on him when she was suffering so much. Now we would not have her in our lives.

I wanted to walk out of my house and find Davy Tweed and kill him. He was the one who deserved to be lying cold in a mortuary, not our beautiful Gemma. All the healing she needed, she could have got it, she was so capable of that.


I had been suicidal myself. I thought I could say things that made sense to me and she would feel okay. But she had still done the worst thing. I thought the court case was something we would all have, like a win over him. Even if he hadn’t been convicted, but he was. Why did she do it when he had been convicted?

I went in to see her in her coffin. This house full of people, this house full of love, had scars because of Davy Tweed. Scars that would never really heal, ones that would often open and feel fresh, and that was forever.

The impact of one man on an entire family who were good, it was evident in that house that day.

They sentenced Davy a week later. I didn’t go. I couldn’t be in the building with that man for one second longer. The destruction he brought to my life, it followed me like the shadow of a demon.

Everything was burning too wildly inside – my loss, my pain, Gemma’s death, everything was too raw. I wanted to kill him. I thought of the ways I could do it, day after day. On the day he was being sentenced, I was afraid of my feelings, afraid that I would do it. He didn’t deserve to breathe the air.

I was also twisting with the knowledge that Davy Tweed would have heard about Gemma. I believed that he would have smiled when he heard that. His disdain for the girls he had destroyed was always so evident. He would have liked to hear that he had destroyed one of them beyond repair. It would have been the ultimate ego trip, the power he had even years later.

We had all prepared ourselves for a suspended sentence, a slap on the wrist. He deserved life but got eight years and would have to serve four.

‘Released on appeal’

On October 25 2016 I was on a bus going home from work, after a normal day, feeling okay, planning a night watching television, and just as I was passing the courthouse, my friend rang me. ‘Jesus, Amanda, did you hear the news today?’ she said. She sounded frantic. ‘No,’ I said, ‘I’m on my way back from work, what’s happened?’ ‘Davy Tweed’s been released on appeal,’ she said.

I felt like I was being dropped from a height. My stomach was in free fall. How could this be? What appeal? I hadn’t even heard he had been granted one.

Our barrister explained we could go for a retrial but added “do consider the fact that Davy has spent four years in jail already, so even if we do secure a conviction, he would be unlikely to do any further jail time.”

We decided we couldn’t go through it all again. ‘We have done what we can to stop him,’ I said, ‘I don’t think going through another trial will bring us anything but more pain.’

The legal system had failed us. We had been let down on a technicality and Davy was going to have that to lord over us, but we could not go through another trial, we would not survive. Davy was free.

As I attempted to forgive, over and over again, and saw how much worse that made me feel, I decided that it was a no. This idea was wrong. I did not have to forgive him, I did not have to imagine an apology, because that was living in a lie. I’d done that enough times, I wasn’t going to do it now.

I hated Davy Tweed. I hated him as a child and I hated him now. I wished him the worst life. He tortured me. He destroyed me. I hated him with every single cell of my body. It was the natural thing to do.

That emotion, hate, it exists for a reason. It is instinctive. It is part of the mind’s system that helps us survive – we run from the things that hurt us. We avoid them. We hate them. So I allowed this in my life.