Men carried on with sexual abuse after Joseph Mains arranged ‘cover’ as hotel bellboy
By Fiona O’Cleirigh | 5 June 2015
Kincora boy Richard Kerr was fixed up with a job as a bellboy at the Europa hotel by the warden at his children’s home.
The warden, Joseph Mains, arranged the job as cover for the boy he had groomed to continue to be supplied to guests at the world-famous hotel in central Belfast for sexual abuse, according to Kerr.
“I did not want to be a bellboy,” he said. “I was put to be the bellboy so that I would meet people. It was really cover, so nobody would suspect anything.”
Kerr told how the abuse at the Europa intensified after he started working there. “It was really bad. It got really worse. It was like, they know who to come to,” he said.
“They were very discreet, they were very quiet” – Richard Kerr
The Kincora staff took the boys to the bar at the Europa, the Whip and Saddle, where men would pick them up for sexual abuse.
After Kerr started his job at the Europa, he sometimes worked as a barman.
And, said Kerr, Mains continued to visit the Whip and Saddle. “After I got the job as a bellboy, Joe Mains would occasionally come down to the Whip and Saddle bar and drink.”
William McGrath, a house master at Kincora, is notorious for sexually assaulting boys at the children’s home. He was later jailed for four years for child sex abuse. Leader of a paramilitary-style group of Protestants, Tara, McGrath was allegedly an agent for the Security Service, better known as MI5.
But, according to Kerr, McGrath was not the key figure in the establishment circle of abuse that he says was linked to the Europa.
“Mains would walk in and wave his hand – and Mr Semple – all the time. Never saw McGrath, never saw McGrath.”
Mains and his circle of abusers saw McGrath as a liability, said Kerr. “He was too compulsive, too wild.”
“He was obvious. These people were not. They were very discreet, they were very quiet. In those days, they did not want people really to know.”
Kerr gradually stopped working at the Europa after he and his friend, Stephen, had begun to rebel against the abusive treatment.
But they felt that they would not be believed if they spoke of the abuse. “Because Stephen says, ‘No one is going to believe us. They are going to believe those important men.’
“We are not going to be believed. And if you go to the police, the police are not going to believe you either.”
According to Kerr, many of the men who abused him, through Mains, were from England. Kerr said that he was forced to rely upon some of them when he left the care system.
“These men were from across the water. That is how I was able to meet up with some of them, like connections were out of the Europa.”
He said that his time at the Europa set the pattern for continued abuse when he was trafficked beyond Northern Ireland to England, initially in the north-west, and London.
“I would hang around hotels, get a job as a bellboy – patterns, same patterns, followed me into north-west England, followed me into London, same patterns. And that is all part of the grooming from an early age.”
Kerr said that Stephen later tried to escape from a remand home in Northern Ireland. Police picked Stephen up in Liverpool. On the ferry back to Belfast, said Kerr, Stephen jumped overboard. Stephen’s body has never been recovered.
The new disclosures on Kincora, child sex abuse and the Europa come as police throughout the UK are overwhelmed by investigations into child sex abuse within institutions, encompassing a total of 1,433 suspects. Of those, 261 are “people of public prominence”, according to police.
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