Victim of paedophile priest left so traumatised he attempted suicide
By Josh Parry
December 01, 2017
|Child sex abuse victim Stephen Armstrong-Smith who saw his abuser, Former catholic priest John Murphy jailed for three years|
|Father John Kevin Murphy abused boys as young as 11|
A MAN who endured years of sexual abuse at the hands of a priest was so traumatised he turned to self-harm and extreme suicide attempts.
Father John Kevin Murphy, 93, used his position of trust to groom four boys during the 60s and 70s while working as a priest at St Luke’s Parish in Whiston, and the attached St Edmund Arrowsmith Catholic School.
Today Liverpool Crown Court heard how during his 12 years working in the area, Murphy, of St George’s Court in Maghull, gained the trust of several families and offered to take boys, aged between 11-16 at the time, for swimming lessons, exercise sessions and even camping trips abroad in order to abuse them.
One of the boys, Stephen Armstrong-Smith, now aged 59, has waived his legal right to anonymity and bravely spoken out about how the years of abuse left him in turmoil over his sexuality, and how he turned to a destructive cycle of alcohol and drug abuse, as well as extreme forms of self harm.
In an emotional statement, which was read out shortly before his abuser was sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court, Stephen explained how the trauma has left him unable to form relationships, leading him to have unprotected sex with hundreds of different men as a form of self-harm.
He said: “As a result of the abuse in my early life, I had massive confusion over my sexual orientation. I was constantly questioning if I was gay. I was also asking myself if I had invited Murphy’s advances.
“This insecurity stayed with me all through my life, I felt a constant need to be accepted and suffered terrible rejection issues.
“I was unable to maintain relationships due to my low self-esteem, my longest relationship being about three years long.
“I have taken many risks sexually and it’s only by some miracle that I’ve not contracted HIV or hepatitis. I’ve not a clue how many men I’ve had unsafe sex with. It must be well over 250 and I know this is not normal behaviour.”
Throughout Mr Armstrong-Smith’s life, he has suffered recurring dreams and flashbacks of what happened, which at one point led him to be sectioned for almost a fortnight.
He added: “I have made around five serious attempts at suicide. One a house fire in Whiston where I was hospitalised. I attempted suicide in North Allterton, Yorkshire where I ended up being sectioned for almost two weeks.
“Four years ago I drank bleach. I put all of this down to what happened to me.”
Murphy abused Stephen several times over a period of two years while Murphy worked as a junior priest, as well as at his school in Whiston.
He was so terrified of what would happen if the truth came out that he denied the assaults to his parents, and questioned whether he brought them upon himself.
In a desperate attempt to avoid Murphy he would often fake illness so that he was allowed to stay at home.
On one occasion, Murphy visited his sick bed under the guise of checking how he was, and touched him inappropriately under the covers.
It was after this incident that Mr Armstrong-Smith took his concerns to the church who told him he could “tell the police and risk people finding out” or keep it to himself and “let the church deal with it.”
Terrified of anyone finding out about the abuse, Stephen took the second option and Murphy was sent to another parish.
However, over 40 years later, criminal charges were brought against Murphy after one of the victims gave evidence to Merseyside Police.
In July 2016, his abuser was charged with 16 counts of historical sexual abuse and was today sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to sign the sex offenders’ register.
Mr Armstrong-Smith, who started his own peer support network for victims of sexual abuse, shared his fears there could be other victims of Murphy who have not yet come forward.
He told the ECHO: “I waived my anonymity because I wanted just to let people know that you can actually work through this.
“The purpose of me talking is to say people in my position ‘come forward, go to the police, you can keep your anonymity.”