June 2022

Child rapist released from prison

A man who raped three young girls in foster care as a teenager walked free from prison this week after serving five years behind bars.

Keith Burke raped three girls who were all under the age of 10 between 2003 and 2007 at the home in Galway.

Carrying his belongings in two bags as he emerged from Arbour Hill Prison in Dublin, he refused to speak when approached by the Sunday World newspaper

Instead, he climbed into the back of a van with his face partially hidden by a Covid mask.

As he opened the back doors of a white vehicle, the driver shouted: “Get in the van.”

The reporters were then told to “f**k off out of it” as Burke dropped some of his belongings on the street in his panic to hide.

Burke’s rape case sparked huge controversy when it emerged in 2016 that one of the victims had been allowed to continue to stay at the foster home even after another girl had reported to her mother what had happened.

Burke was found guilty of 23 charges of rape and buggery after a trial in 2017 in a case that sparked a row over how it was handled by the Health Service Executive and Tusla.

One girl reported the abuse in 2007 but no prosecution followed.

Another victim was allowed to continue to stay at the home until she too confided that she had been abused in 2011.

A new Garda investigation then revealed a third victim had also been raped by Burke, who was initially charged with 70 counts of rape and buggery.

Sickening details of Burke’s depraved abuse emerged following a documentary by RTE Investigates, in which one of the victims waived her anonymity to name and shame him.

Following his six-and-a-half-year sentence, one of the victims told RTE: “I was very angry, I thought I was fine but six-and-a-half years – seven-and-a-half years with one year suspended – that’s nothing, and what he put us through.”

Burke had pleaded not guilty to the charge and all three victims had to take the witness stand to give evidence.

Another told how she first went to the foster home in Dunmore, Galway, at the age of eight in 2005, for a weekend of respite care once a month.

She became friends with another girl there and she said that Keith Burke began to abuse both girls.

She recounted how Keith called the other girl upstairs and to ask her to go to a hut outside at the back of the house.

In the hut there was a bed where the two young girls were forced to strip down and called one to watch as he raped the other.

She said that the two girls were sexually abused by Burke in front of each other over the following two years.

The girl told her mother in 2007 what had been happening, prompting the first Garda investigation.

The HSE decided Burke could not be left alone with the foster children, the foster parents agreed to supervise this and he moved out of the family home, according to RTE Investigates.

But at his sentence hearing, gardai said that he continued to have unsupervised access after 2007 to the foster home.

When the case was re-opened again in 2013, a third girl who had lived in the foster home came forward.

She had been placed in the foster home aged five, in 2000, and had been raped by Keith Burke for years.

In a brave interview with RTE, she spoke openly about the sexual abuse she suffered from the age of six.

“I remember one time he had me, all my clothes off and he put me down on my stomach and he started having anal sex with me,” she recalls.

“I didn’t know what was happening – I just wanted it over.

“He just told me not to move or I’d be in trouble. He used to threaten me that he’d kill me. All I wanted was my dad.”

In 2021 one of the women reached a High Court settlement for an undisclosed amount, agreed with the HSE and Tusla, which was made without an admission of liability.

April 2018

HSE apologises over rape of three girls while in foster care

The Health Service Executive has apologised unreservedly for failings in the care of three girls who were repeatedly raped by a teenager over seven years while in the foster care of his parents.

The circumstances in which the boy raped and sexually assaulted the three girls must be fully investigated, a solicitor acting for one of them has said.

Ronan Hynes was speaking in advance of the broadcast on Tuesday night of an RTÉ Investigates programme on the case.

Keith Burke (29) of Addergoolemore, Dunmore, Co Galway was jailed for 7½ years earlier this month at the Central Criminal Court for the rape of the three girls between 2003 and 2007.

He was between 14 and 18 at the time, while the girls were all under 10.

The first victim, who had been fostered by the family from six months old, told the court Burke would ask her to “do that thing for me” before he raped her. She outlined instances of rape in a field and on a tractor but mostly in a hut by the house.

A second girl, Rachel Barry, has waived her anonymity and is interviewed in the programme. She was placed in the family home for weekly respite care in 2005, from eight years of age. In the programme the first girl is referred to as “Amy”.

Ms Barry told RTÉ: “Myself and ‘Amy’ in turns had to strip down with nothing only our socks on and while he had obviously done it to ‘Amy’ before, he called her over and I had to watch what was happening to her.”

The court heard she had told her biological mother and gardaí in 2007 about the abuse and that “Amy” was being abused, but because “Amy” denied the abuse no prosecution was taken.

In 2011, “Amy” told a teacher about the abuse she was suffering and when a third foster daughter, “Sarah”, was interviewed by gardaí it emerged she too had been raped by Burke.

She told gardaí she had been eight years old and being minded by Burke when he raped her in his parents’ bedroom, having told her to put on his mother’s underwear.

Burke pleaded not guilty to the crimes, meaning the three young women had to give evidence in court. He accepted his guilt before sentencing.

Mr Hynes – solicitor for “Sarah” – called for the case to be fully investigated. “My client and her family feel incredibly let down by a system which really was designed to protect them and serious questions need to be answered regarding both the placement and safeguarding of ‘Sarah’ while she was in care.”

In a statement, the HSE said that while no apology could undo the harm inflicted on the girls, it was important that the HSE expressed a heartfelt apology at this time.

“The HSE has been in contact with Tusla in order to discuss how best to determine whether this case raises any concerns for HSE delivered services today.”