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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 June, 2004, 19:41 GMT 20:41 UK
Carers guilty of child abuse
Both defendants were placed on the sex offenders' register
Both defendants were placed on the sex offenders' register
Two former carers at a Barnardo's home in Northern Ireland have been found guilty of abusing and sexually assaulting children.

Sarah Jayne Margaret Hewitt, 68, formerly of Drain's Bay, Larne and Robert George Anderson, 46, from Ballycarry, but now living in England, denied the charges.

Most of the abuse took place at the Macedon home in Newtownabbey, on the outskirts of Belfast, more than 25 years ago.

Hewitt was found guilty of 53 out of 70 charges, including indecent assault, gross indecency and assault committed against eight children between December 1977 and June 1981.

Anderson was found guilty of 17 out of 28 charges, including indecent assault, two charges of rape and gross indecency committed against five children between January 1979 and June 1981.

The 10-member jury came to a majority verdict at Belfast Crown Court on Wednesday.

We hope this victory sets an example to other victims that they do have the courage and support to come forward and safeguard other children from falling at the hands of such evil individuals
Victims' statement

It followed two days' of deliberations.

However, the jury unanimously cleared Hewitt of 17 charges and Anderson of 11 charges.

He was cleared of nine counts of rape and one of serious sexual assault.

It took the foreman of the jury almost 20 minutes to announce all the verdicts.

Seven of the eight victims were present in court to hear their abusers being convicted, with some shedding tears of relief and joy while others simply whispered "yes".

The pair will be sentenced later.

'Justice has been served'

Trial judge Mr Justice Weir told them while he was releasing them on new bail conditions, they should not "take that fact that you will not be sentenced to a term of imprisonment".

They must surrender their passports by lunchtime on Thursday.

Macedon in Newtownabbey was closed and demolished in 1981
Macedon in Newtownabbey was closed and demolished in 1981
In a statement released to the media, the victims said the "mentally and physically exhausting" trial had brought many "hurtful and painful memories" to the fore but added they were glad to "see justice has been served".

"We hope this victory sets an example to other victims that they do have the courage and support to come forward and safeguard other children from falling at the hands of such evil individuals."

The director of Barnardo's in Northern Ireland, Lynda Wilson, said the charity was deeply saddened by the events at Macedon.

"Our hearts go out to all of the children who were involved and who as adults have had to endure these court proceedings.

"We know that it takes a great deal of bravery for people to come forward who have suffered this type of abuse," she said.

"Our aim today is to learn as much as we can from the experience of the past and to take all steps necessary to reduce opportunities for child abuse to occur."

Both defendants were placed on the sex offenders' register.

Detective Sergeant Geoff Boyce said it was the most difficult case he had been involved with.
Hewitt was found guilty of 53 out of 70 charges
Hewitt was found guilty of 53 out of 70 charges

"It's four years to the day that Margaret Hewitt was arrested. I hope it gives the victims some sense of closure and that they can now move on with their lives," he said.

"It has taken some 27 years for this day to arrive. It's been a long and difficult journey for each of them."

The Macedon home in Newtownabbey was closed and demolished in 1981. It was in the grounds of what is now Hazelbank Park on the shores of Belfast Lough.




WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC NI's Shane Glynn:
"He was cleared of nine counts of rape and one of serious sexual assault"




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