January 2018

Victim breaks decade-long silence to help put abusers behind bars

These are the paedophile brothers who are suspected of abusing up to a dozen kids during a 12-year reign of terror

Mark Cuthbert (52) and his younger brother Gavin (47) are facing long prison sentences after pleading guilty to a litany of sex crimes during the 1980s and 1990s.

The monsters have admitted abusing a total of three schoolboys — however, one of their victims insists there are a lot more and says that he personally knows of another four.

Paul Stirling, a promising young footballer whose career was wrecked after being sexually shared by the evil brothers, said: “I know there are a lot more victims. The Cuthberts didn’t just stop with me.”

Mark and Gavin Cuthbert targeted children living in the terraced streets off the Albertbridge Road in east Belfast between 1987 and 1999.

So too did their older brother William ‘Billy’ Cuthbert (59), who is currently serving a four-year prison sentence for gross indecency with a female child during the early 1980s.

While he was into young girls, his siblings Mark and Gavin preferred boys, with the former using his role as a football coach to target victims like Paul Stirling.

“The first time they abused me was in 1995 after football training”, revealed courageous Paul, who has waived his right to anonymity.

“At the time I was playing for a team called Belfast Youth, it was a cross-community side and Mark Cuthbert was a coach.

“After training he brought me to his brother Gavin’s house on Chatsworth Street. That’s where the abuse occurred, they both performed a sex act in front of me.”

Afterwards, paedophile Mark walked Paul home. On the short journey he warned the terrified 10-year-old that he would harm his family if he told them what happened.

This horrific scenario would repeat itself continuously over the next four years.

Paul Stirling would be forced to go to Mark’s house on Edith Street, where he would have to watch pornographic films while the paedophile, sometimes joined by his depraved brother Gavin, would perform sex acts on themselves.

Throughout the time the devious pair tried to buy his silence with threats, money and football kits.

Paul added: “This happened between 100 and 150 times. I felt so intimidated, and scared that if I spoke out something would happen to my family.”

Paul finally cracked when he was 14 years old and opened up to his mother about the years of abuse at the hands of the Cuthberts.

But he refused to make a statement to the police. Not wanting to relive the abuse, the talented teenage footballer threatened to run away from home if they were called.

That was in 1999 and it would be another 15 years before Paul, now a 32-year-old loving father with four children of his own, talked to detectives.

By this stage, Mark and Gavin Cuthbert had fled east Belfast, moving to Donaghadee and Newtownards, after rumours of their paedophilia swept the area. In 2015 the cowardly pair were arrested and charged with a catalogue of sex offences against children.

Last November, after almost three years of denials, Gavin Cuthbert pleaded guilty to 14 counts of indecent assault and gross indecency with three kids, including Paul Stirling.

His predatory football coach brother Mark admitted 11 counts of indecent assault and gross indecency on Paul. To the anger of their victims, the pervert brothers were freed on bail by Belfast Crown Court ahead of being sentenced later this month.

Mark, who sometimes uses the surname Tweed, is now locked up in Maghaberry Prison after his bail was revoked on December 21. But his brother Gavin is still enjoying freedom, holed up in a Newtownards apartment from which he posts photographs of himself on social media enjoying pints and meals around Belfast and north Down.

The sex fiend’s situation is in stark contrast to that of his victims, who continue to struggle on a daily basis with the abuse they suffered at his hands.

Paul Stirling — the immensely brave east Belfast man who brought the Cuthberts’ reign of a terror to an end — talks openly of the effects of being used as a sexual object by the brothers.

“I suffer from PTSD, I’m on nine tablets a day and I don’t sleep,” he said.

“The psychological impact of what they did on me is massive. It has really affected my mental health.

“On one occasion I went to Canada and America to play football for a Northern Ireland select team.

“I was looking forward to it so much and then when I was over there I found out Mark Cuthbert had flown out with the coaching staff. I couldn’t deal with it, I just lost the plot and ended up screaming at a referee.

“I was banned from playing football for a year and not allowed back in America.”

Paul blames the Cuthberts on destroying his dreams to become a professional footballer.

When he was 16 years old he was offered a trial at Premiership side Burnley, which he turned down after becoming paranoid that he would fall prey to English paedophiles.

However, this fear lessened as he got older and with children of his own, Paul realised he had to break more than a decade of silence. In a brutally honest Facebook post at the end of 2014, Paul detailed his abuse at the hands of the Cuthberts — naming them as the sexual predators who robbed him of a childhood.

His story was widely read and led to two other victims of Gavin Cuthbert coming forward and speaking to the police.

Like Paul, these men have also suffered serious mental health problems linked to their treatment at the hands of the paedophile.

“Writing that Facebook post was like lifting a huge weight off my shoulders,” explained Paul.

“I got it all out there and I realised that I shouldn’t be carrying any shame, I’d done nothing wrong, it was the Cuthberts who should be named and shamed.

“The good thing was that it encouraged other people who they had abused to come forward.

“What I want now is for other victims of the Cuthberts to read this Sunday Life interview and to speak to the police.

“I know for a fact there are others out there, I have talked to four personally,” added Paul.

“I want to assure other victims that they have nothing to fear by contacting the police — the only people who should be worried are Mark and Gavin Cuthbert.”