Foster father who raped girl over 1,000 times jailed for 11 years

Stephen Murray (56) was named after his foster daughter decided to waive her right to anonymity
Foster father who raped girl over 1,000 times jailed for 11 years

Sonya McLean and Claire Henry

A foster father who raped his foster daughter over 1,000 times has been sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Kelly Kemmy (24), who decided to waive her right anonymity in order to name Stephen Murray (56), her foster father and abuser, said she was raped 1,000 times from the age of 11 until she was 18.

She told the Central Criminal Court she stands before Murray now a survivor and is determined not to let the abuse define her.

Murray, of Humphreystown, Valleymount, Co Wicklow, pleaded guilty to 14 charges of rape, two charges of oral rape and one charge of sexual assault on dates between February 2009 and December 2015. He has no previous convictions.

Ms Kemmy’s victim impact statement was read into the record at the initial sentencing hearing of her foster father.

Mr Justice Paul McDermott told the court that Murray and his wife had been trusted with the care of this girl and her two siblings. The judge said that throughout this period of abuse, Murray was devious in keeping this a secret from his wife.

Judge McDermott said Murray's actions resulted in gross sexual abuse and that it was evident from Ms Kemmy's victim impact statement that this had psychological effects on her and caused her physical and emotional pain.

The judge said the aggravating factors were that the offences were carried out against a vulnerable young child in her own bedroom.

He added that Murray had inflicted terror, fear and isolation on the child, and that his empathy for the girl had only emerged recently.

Judge McDermott said Murray persisted with the abuse because he could and wanted to, even when asked not to by his foster daughter.

Serious level

The judge said the offences were of the most serious level. On the count of sexual assault, he sentenced Murray to seven years in prison. On the counts of rape, he sentenced Murray to 12 years in prison.

Judge McDermott said he must consider mitigation when sentencing, noting the early guilty plea entered by Murray and his expression of shame and remorse, together with his good work history and positive engagement with the probation services.

For this reason, the judge suspended the final twelve months of the sentence under the condition that Murray keep the peace and be of good behaviour and keep all appointments as directed by the probation services. Both sentences will run concurrently.

Anne Rowland SC, prosecuting, said the pleas were acceptable to the State on the basis that they were sample charges.

Ms Rowland said Ms Kemmy told gardaí that from the age of 11 to 18-years-old, she was raped between four and five times per week by the man.

Counsel said even if the man had raped the girl once a week, that would equate to 300 incidences, and if it was the case that he raped her as often as five times a week that would be equal to over 1,000 incidences of rape.

Counsel said the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) has directed that the case falls into the “exceptional category” for such offending, given the extreme vulnerability of the victim, the abuse of trust involved, the frequency of offending and the severe and long-lasting impact the rape had on the woman.

She said on that basis, the DPP suggests the case merited a headline sentence of between 15 years and life imprisonment.

Child's bedroom

The court heard that following an initial abuse of the girl while in the sitting room of the family home, Murray would regularly come into her bedroom at night and rape her.

The other members of the family, including his wife, were often in the house sleeping at the time.

On one occasion, when there was a party in the house to mark her younger sister’s communion, the victim went to bed with a headache, however her foster father followed her into her room where he tried to touch her, telling her it would make her feel better. She pushed him away and he left.

Ms Kemmy reported the abuse to gardaí in 2019 following a text conversation with Murray, when he asked her if they “could go again?” She took this to mean that he was asking to have sex with her again.

At that point he had not raped her for a number of years but she was in the house and he had been drinking, so she was worried he would come into her room.

It was at that point that she decided she had to disclose the abuse, telling her younger siblings, her then-boyfriend and later the gardaí.

The man was arrested in December 2019, making no comment during interview. His wife later made a statement to gardaí in which she said he admitted to her that he had raped their foster daughter.

The abuse feels likes a life sentence.

The victim impact statement said the woman was still uncovering the ways the abuse has affected her life and said she had been hurt “in a way that no human should”. “The abuse feels like a life sentence,” she said.

She said she came to the man’s home “craving love and acceptance”. She described how the abuse began with the man asking her to lie on him and act as “his blanket” and how he made this behaviour out to be “a normal thing”.

She addressed Murray directly and said he used “my small body for your sexual gratification”, adding that she found it difficult to put into words the “excruciating pain” she experienced.

The woman said she had “feelings of confusion and shame” as she tried as young child to comprehend what was happening.

“I was the child and you were the adult telling me it was a secret,” she continued before she added that she felt completely alone and there was “no safe place”.

She described feeling “trapped, helpless and frightened” and said she was too scared to report the abuse because of what may happen her younger brother and sister, who were also living in the home.

The woman said she cried herself to sleep and said Murray would punish her with silence if she refused to allow him to rape her, causing her siblings to wonder what had happened.

She knew speaking up would ruin her siblings’ lives, so she did not disclose the abuse until she was 21-years-old.

“It has torn me to pieces. My teenage years were dark.” She described feeling numb and said she did not want to exist, adding she was “ashamed and embarrassed”.

“I stand in front of you as a survivor,” the woman said before she added that she missed out on a childhood and her life “turned into a living nightmare”.

“The abuse brought me nothing but shame,” she said before she added that she has complete lack of self-worth and suffers from depression. She said she has been surviving life for 15 years, “sometimes only existing”.

“Today is when I start to live. I am determined that I will not let this define me,” the woman concluded her victim impact statement.

Ronan Munro SC, defending said his client is “appropriately ashamed” of what he has done, and added that he has started counselling and “demonstrates that he is willing to engage to discuss these matters”.

Counsel said his client’s working life and marriage are over, and he is living as a recluse as he is ashamed to be seen locally.

Mr Munro said there are concerns over his client’s mental health and asked the court to take into account that although he made no admissions to gardaí, he pleaded guilty and spared his foster daughter the ordeal of a trial.

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