Former pupil details the regime of shamed monk Michael Murphy

Shamed monk Michael Murphy. Picture: Ciaran Donnelly
Shamed monk Michael Murphy. Picture: Ciaran Donnelly
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A FORMER pupil has told of his experiences at the school where a Catholic monk sexually abused and electrocuted young boys.

Michael Murphy, now 82, who was known as Brother Benedict, was jailed yesterday for seven years for a catalogue of violence and indecency at St Joseph’s List D School in Tranent.

He denied all allegations of sexual abuse, but was found guilty at the High Court in Edinburgh on 15 charges of assault and indecent assault involving eight boys and spanning ten years up to 1981.

He was acquitted of a further two charges.

Gerry McCafferty, now 49, spent 18 months at St Joseph’s between 1980 and 1982 and remembers how Murphy would “creep about the showers” and hand out routine violence to pupils.

Mr McCafferty said he was never sexually assaulted by Murphy and had no idea about what he was up to.

But he said: “Everyone thought he was a bit odd and a lot of guys were scared of him.

“He was one of the brothers and he was in charge of our dormitory. At nighttime he would creep about the corridors and go into people’s bedrooms.

“I caught him in my room a couple of times. I’m a really light sleeper so I would wake up and see him standing there. He would pretend he was opening the curtains – at 6am.

“You didn’t think anything of it at the time, but now I’ve read about it, it brings it all back.

“He had a select few he befriended more than others. These were the slower ones. He would have them doing stuff for him.

“He would take them away to go and clean the club out and stuff like that, so I don’t know what actually happened.”

Mr McCafferty continued: “He used to creep about the showers. And he would flick boys with towels while they were in the shower. At the time, when you’re young boys, you don’t see it the way you see it now.”

It emerged during the trial that Murphy had a hand-wound generator which he would use to give pupils electric shocks.

“I used to get that every week,” said Mr McCafferty. “He used to have Thursday or a Friday club, he would take so many guys to the club, you would all sit around the table and have games.

“Then all of a sudden he would bring out this machine he’d made himself – it was two poles with a wire going into the box and he would just wind it up and the faster he wound it the more electricity was coming through it – and he thought it was just fun holding the pipe in your hand and getting an electric shock.

“That happened every week – people got electric shocks.

“And outside, when we were playing in the yard and it was time to line up to go back into your class, he was a bully. He would go up to you and nip you in the back of your neck and kick your shins and stand on your toes. It was just his way.

“He was trying to get them into line, but they were just being boys.

“We had a nickname for him – Bootsy, because he was always kicking people.”

Mr McCafferty said Murphy had not been like other staff at St Joseph’s.

“He kept himself to himself. Other staff would be in the playground talking and having a laugh with the boys, but he had his selected few.”

A string of former pupils, now in their 40s and 50s, gave evidence at the trial.

One boy was subjected to a rape ordeal by Murphy and an accomplice when he was aged 14 or 15 in the showers. He was warned that if he told anyone of the sexual abuse he would never see his parents again.

Other victims told how Murphy had laughed when administering electric shocks to boys using the hand-wound generator, which was dubbed “The Tickler”. One boy had his hands burned and another lapsed into unconsciousness.

Another pupil was locked in an unlit cupboard overnight and another was urinated on by Murphy.

St Joseph’s was a residential List D school for troubled youngsters, run by the De La Salle Roman Catholic order. It closed in 1998. One former pupil said of the institution: “It was just run on a regime of fear.

Murphy, of Clayton Court, Rogate Road, Liss, Hampshire, maintained his innocence throughout the trial. He told the court: “As a matter of fact I should not be here in this court at all. I have done nothing wrong in St Joseph’s.”

But before he was sentenced, it emerged that Murphy had been convicted at the High Court in Edinburgh in 2003. He was convicted of ten assaults on nine boys dating from the 1960s when he worked at the St Ninian’s List D school in Stirlingshire. He was jailed for two years for the crimes but the Court of Criminal Appeal reduced that to 12 months.

Sentencing Murphy to seven years’ imprisonment yesterday, trial judge Lord Uist said: “You have been convicted by the jury of a contemptible course of criminal conduct consisting of the physical and sexual abuse of eight boys in your care during the years when you worked at St Joseph’s School, Tranent.”

He said some of the crimes consisted of “particularly abhorrent and despicable” sexual abuse of two boys.

He continued: “In behaving as you did you betrayed the trust reposed in you as a guardian of those boys and flouted your religious calling.

“I do not know what caused you to treat those boys, who have clearly all been damaged to varying extents by what they suffered at your hands, in such a cruel manner.

“Your continued denial of these crimes shows that you have no remorse or regret.

“It has taken a long time for justice to catch up with you, but the day of reckoning has now arrived.”

Lord Uist also placed Murphy on the sex offenders register for life.

Speaking after the sentencing, procurator fiscal Kenny Donnelly said: “The actions of Michael Murphy have devastated the lives of many and left permanent mental scars on his vulnerable victims. He was trusted and respected by the community he served while all along was abusing his position to satisfy his depraved needs.

“Thanks to the incredible bravery of his victims in coming forward to report what happened to them, it has been possible for us to bring him to face the full force of the law for his despicable crimes.”