A 74-year-old former scout leader told investigating gardaí that a scout who accused him of indecent assault at the age of 13 on a weekend away in the mid-1980s was “a bit of a fantasist.”
Michael Noel Sheehan, also known as Noel Sheehan, of Chimneyfields, Glenville, County Cork, pleaded not guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to a charge of indecently assaulting the boy scout on a weekend away in Glenville between January 7 1986 and April 30 1987.
A jury of nine men and three women was sworn in to hear the case before Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.
The complainant is now 48 and said he was 13 at the time of the alleged indecent assault. Imelda Kelly prosecution barrister asked him if he had fond memories of being in the scouts and he said he did.
But the complainant testified that on a weekend away at the derelict schoolhouse which they were doing up for use by the scouts they were sleeping upstairs and he named the scout to his right on the floor that night and said Noel Sheehan was sleeping to his left.
He said he woke to the sound of his sleeping bag zip. “I think for a split moment I thought it is the lads messing but this never ever happened before. At that moment Noel Sheehan is next to me. It is a hairy hand, a man’s hand comes into my sleeping bag,” the complainant testified. He said he was fondled and masturbated by Sheehan.
“That is the moment that is vivid in my life. I never forgot that moment… five to ten minutes – it seemed a lot longer. I am frozen. I want to do something but I can’t. I stop there frozen, paralysed, I can’t move. I can’t believe this is happening to me. I pray the morning will come quickly,” the complainant said.
He said there was nothing said during the disputed incident. He said Sheehan dropped him and the other scouts home after the weekend away.
The complainant’s first complaint about this was on a helpline in December 2019 and later to gardaí.
Donal O’Sullivan, defence barrister, said the accused used to cordon off a sleeping area for himself by surrounding his area with chairs as a barrier. To that the complainant replied, “100% no, no way, there was no barrier, 100% no way was there barriers.” Interviewed by Detective Garda David Moynihan, a note of which was put to the jury, Sheehan said he joined the scouts in 1959 at the age of 12 and became a leader in 1965.
“I would never sleep near the young fellas. The fire had to be watched, the door had to be watched, the smokers had to be watched. It never happened. It would never happen,” Sheehan said.
When the allegations were put to him, he described it as ‘rubbish’. When details of the alleged assault were put to him he said, “I categorically deny it. Not him nor anyone else.” In response to another question by gardaí he replied, “You file your report and I will fill the court with witnesses.”
Asked if he was 40 or 41 at the time of the alleged indecent assault, he said, “Do the maths yourself.” Commenting on the complainant he said, “I think he is a bit of a fantasist.”
A defence witness who was a scout approximately five years after this disputed incident said they always slept downstairs not upstairs in the building on their weekends away there.
The trial continues tomorrow at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.