April 2022

New updated photos of Joseph McColgan

March 2017: Joseph McColgan has changed his name to Joseph Simms 

November 2015: Now living in a flat near the library in Newton Square, Bampton, Nr Tiverton

September 2015

Meet Ireland’s most notorious paedophile – dubbed the Beast of Sligo – NOW living in Cornwall

Irishman Joseph McColgan, who is now 73 years old was jailed for a record 238 years for raping his own children – He served JUST nine years before his early release

Then in June 2010, whilst living in Exmouth, Devon he got 30 months for possessing child abuse images before being released early again.

This paedophile is one of the most dangerous offenders we have on the database.


Meneghy Probation/Bail Hostel 16 East Hill, Tuckingmill, Camborne, Cornwall, TR14 8NQ

August 2011

Why is evil paedophile ‘The Beast of Sligo’ free to roam the streets despite being jailed for 238 years?

One of Britain’s most notorious paedophiles – dubbed the Beast of Sligo- is back on the streets and free to mingle with children and families. 

Irishman Joseph McColgan, 69  was spotted among families at a car boot sale in Plymouth, Devon

Joseph McColgan, jailed for a record 238 years for raping his own children, pushed his bike around happily, chatting to youngsters and adults.

The Irishman, dubbed the Beast of Sligo, served just nine years before his early release in 2004.

Then in June 2010 he got 30 months for possessing child pornography before being released early again.

He spoke to a young lad as he tried to buy spanners for his bike at the sale in Plymouth, Devon. Then three times he visited a stall selling model cars, a favourite with kids.


Joseph McColgan in 2010

He has now been released early on licence before serving even half of his latest sentence.

McColgan is staying at the Lawson House bail hostel in Plymouth – directly opposite one of the city’s main colleges.

But he was tight lipped about his future and whether he would be staying in Devon – where he lived for some time after being released from Dublin’s Arbour Hill jail

He said: ‘I cannot talk about it. I am on parole. 

‘I don’t know where I will live. I cannot talk to you.’ 

Among other offences, McColgan attempted to force his then nine-year-old son to have sex with his seven-year-old daughter.

He also abused all four of his children with cattle prods and burning them.

But the evil paedophile was seen happily chatting to youngsters and adults at the car boot sale. 

He spoke with one young man as he tried to buy some spanners for his old bike and looked at stalls selling children’s toys.


Joseph McColgan on his bike at a Plymouth bail hostel 

Shoppers looking for a bargain were unaware of McColgan’s notoriety as he potted around on his own before cycling back to the bail hostel.

Before his latest jail term handed out at Exeter Crown Court in June 2010, McColgan had been living in a small block of flats in the seaside town of Exmouth, east Devon. 

His home was yards away from a primary school and his immediate neighbours were unaware of his vile past – along with parents of young children who played in the street nearby.

They were shocked when they discovered who he was and his horrific offending. 

When Judge Graham Cottle jailed him at Exeter, he told McColgan: ‘You are quite clearly a very dangerous man. 

‘You are a danger to children and upon your release I very much hope that you are supervised to the highest possible level by the authorities. 

‘If that is not put in place then children will continue to be at serious risk from you and your activities.’


Joseph McColgan at a car boot sale in Plymouth

Detective Constable Steve Harris, of Devon and Cornwall police, said McColgan was an arrogant man who could not accept his offending. 

Yesterday McColgan was true to form branding those who made claims against him that he was grooming or watching children as ‘liars’.

February 2004

Diary of abuse: How a father beat and raped his children daily for almost 20 years

These are just some of the words that could be used to describe Sophia McColgan and her brothers and sister. They were a family savaged by a brutal father who beat and raped his children on a daily basis and subjected them to a reign of terror akin to a “Nazi concentration camp” as it was described in court for almost 20 years.

Joseph McColgan, a farmer from Ballinacarrow, Ballymote, Co Sligo, pummelled his children with fists and feet and beat them with anything he could lay his hands on, including shovels, hammers, carpet beaters, brooms and thin sticks that would whip around their little bodies.

He tried to drown them, strangle them and he even dropped a concrete block on his son Gerard’s fingers when the child, about six or seven, could not move rocks fast enough as he made him labour in the fields.

Sophia recalled that her father’s raging inner demons never rested until 2am or 3am until “someone bled, or got sick, or peed on the floor”.

One of the most harrowing aspects of their abuse was that the children constantly tried to alert the authorities to their torturous existence, but they were ignored.

Gerard ran away more than 50 times, telling anyone who would listen about the beatings his father gave him. But each time he was brought back home. Each time he would receive an even worse beating from his father.

Even Mrs McColgan begged the authorities in 1979 to take her children into care when a savage beating landed nine-year-old Sophia in hospital. At that stage, Sophia had been raped by her father on a near daily basis for three years. A doctor’s notes at that time refer to both Sophia and Gerard as “battered children”.

A priest eventually persuaded Mrs McColgan to return to the family home and give her marriage a second chance. She later described this as the worst mistake of her life. Sophia describes in a book detailing her appalling upbringing how her father beat her mother into silence.

While she was in hospital, Sophia told doctors, nurses, even the children in the ward, that her daddy had broken her nose.

She remembers smiling in hospital because she believed her horrors were over and she would never have to go back. But there would be no escape. She would remain in the house until she was 21.

Sophia was first raped at the age six, shortly before her First Holy Communion. Gerard, just a year older than Sophia, was first raped at the age of eight. Gerard often took more of the beatings in a bid to protect his brother Keith and sisters Sophia and Michelle.

Gerard told the family doctor, Dr Desmond Moran, about how his father beat him and abused him, but Dr Moran said he never found evidence to support it. He asked Joseph McColgan to swear on a bible that he did not beat his son.

In 1983, Gerard told a teacher of the beatings, being stripped naked, having a concrete block dropped on his fingers, and having his arm broken by a shovel. It emerged that when the teacher reported the matter to the North Western Health Board she was told the file on the McColgan family was closed.

In 1984 a social worker wrote: “In is my opinion that I am dealing with a very pathological family. The degree of abuse both physical and sexual is at an extraordinary high level. I have formed a professional opinion that he (JM) is an extremely sick man. . . and seriously sexually perverted. He. . . keeps control by terrorising. His sexual activities regarding the children can only be called criminal.”

Again nothing was done.

At this stage, every orifice of Sophia’s body had been invaded by her father’s penis, fingers and tongue. When that was not enough, he used implements.

He made her have sexual encounters with Gerard, while he watched and masturbated. When her father did not have a condom, he would use a cattle syringe to inject spermicide.

So severe were the attacks on Sophia that one of her coping methods was to develop an ability to leave her body in the bed with her father, while in spirit, she left the room.

“It was a wonderful thing I was able to do. I would close my eyes and dream. My body was there, but my heart and mind were gone. . . while my 15-stone father was on top of me raping me.”

As Sophia grew older and resisted her father’s attentions, Michelle and Keith came into “the firing line”.

In 1993, after he battered and raped his 21-year-old daughter Michelle, he tried to run her down with a motorbike a move that proved to be his downfall.

She told a friend’s doctor that her father had raped, beaten and attempted to kill her repeatedly for 15 years. The doctor contacted the gardaí and social workers and McColgan was charged with physical and sexual abuse and brought to trial.

In 1995, Joseph McColgan, then aged 55, was sentenced to 238 years as he pleaded guilty to 26 token charges of physical and sexual abuse four days into the trial. As the sentences were to run concurrently, he was, in effect, only sentenced to 12 years. After serving just nine, he will be released in three weeks time. He reportedly has not taken part in Arbour Hill Prison’s sex offender programme.

In 1998, the McColgans reached a £1m settlement in their High Court negligence action against the North Western Health Board and their family doctor. Neither the board or the doctor admitted liability in reaching the settlement.

Throughout it all, Sophia insisted she was not a victim or a survivor, just an ordinary person. During her abuse, she decided that getting a degree was the only way the authorities would believe her. She has a son named Gavin and a relationship with his father, and now lives in Britain.

After the court case she said: “The silence is gone, there is no more silence now. We did it for all the victims.”

In an interview in 1998, on the issue of her father getting treatment, she said: “I’d be very wary if he doesn’t, that he’d come back and try and kill one of us.”

Later that year, Gerard said he was convinced his father would re-offend and that he was in “gross denial” about what he had done. “I think he is definitely going to re-offend. He has threatened me and my family that he is going to have me done in when he gets out.”

Gerard said he believed his father had been given a very lenient sentence and would have got life in any other EU country, though years of incarceration with “his own kind” had probably made him even more dangerous.

“You are actually going to release someone back into society who is more equipped to re-offend when you let him out,” he said.

One can only hope the McColgans will achieve some aspect of this.

Sophia’s Story by Susan McKay is published by Gill & Macmillan and will be available in the shops from February 24, priced at €10.99.