March 2021

Brave teen waives right to anonymity to expose sick stepdad who abused her as a girl

This is perverted stepfather Robin Armstrong who forced himself upon his eight-year-old stepdaughter, Joanna.

The twisted 44-year-old pleaded guilty at Belfast Crown Court last month to five counts of sexual assault of a child and a further count of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.

His victim, Joanna Burton (now 16), has waived her right to anonymity to expose her filthy stepfather who repeatedly attacked her in the family home in Ballymoney.

Speaking to the Sunday World along with her mother Cara Hill, who consented to her daughter bravely speaking out, Joanna says she was “devastated” when her attacker was only handed a suspended jail sentence.

“I couldn’t believe it when the judge jailed him for three years – but then said it was being suspended so he won’t spend a single night behind bars for what he did to me,” says Joanna.

“He thinks he can get away with it and carry on living his life without anybody knowing because he abused a member of his family.

“That’s why I’m waiving my right to anonymity to expose him to the world for what he really is – a disgusting child pervert.

“When he reads this I want him to hear me saying, ‘karma’s a bitch’. I hope he rots in hell.”

Joanna says during early court hearings of the case – when Armstrong was denying all the charges – he “laughed” and “grinned” at her in the courtroom.

“He still thought he had total and utter power over me back then but hopefully now he has had that smile wiped off his face,” she told us.

In Northern Ireland sex abusers who target family members cannot be identified to protect the identity of their victims.

But Joanna and her mum were keen to expose Armstrong and signed forms drawn up by a solicitor to waive that right to anonymity.

Joanna’s mum Cara also told this paper that Robin Armstrong need to be exposed publicly so other women would know what he’s like.

“He’s so arrogant, he thought he could do whatever he liked and because of the circumstances nobody would know,” says Cara.

“I’m so proud of Joanna for speaking out because it means we can warn the women of Northern Ireland not to get involved with this man ever – especially if you have kids.

“Now you have met Joanna and I think you can see she’s a strong independent woman who makes her own calls – I’m just here to support her decision to speak publicly.

“She has every right to have her say – he had his say when the perverted bastard decided to get into bed with an eight-year-old girl.

“And she has absolutely nothing to feel embarrassed or ashamed of.”

Armstrong, with an address of Ferryquay Place, Coleraine, committed the multiple offences between January 2013 and June 2016.

Joanna says she agreed to a plea deal meaning the most serious charge of sexual assault, which included penetration, was left on the books.

“I wanted the case to be over, I would have given evidence in the witness box but was glad I didn’t have to,” says Joanna.

“I still thought he would be sent to prison. If I thought for a second he wouldn’t I’d have refused the plea deal and gone into court. I was devastated when he was allowed to walk free.”

His twisted campaign of terror started when Joanna was just eight years old and continued until she was 11. Cara and Joanna say calculated Armstrong waited until his wife was sleeping before attacking his stepdaughter in her own bed.

“I had no idea this was happening to Joanna until she told me about it in 2018,” says Cara.

“I was devastated. I had married and then separated from Robin by then and it affected me mentally very badly because I had brought him into the house and had no clue what he was doing.

“I had five kids and was exhausted so I went to bed early. He’d wait an hour until he knew I was asleep and then go into Joanna’s bed.

“It’s sickening. He doesn’t deserve to be in society. No real man would ever hurt a lady never mind do this to a child.”

Cara says Armstrong had appeared to be a different person when they first met but she now wonders if he had targeted her because she was vulnerable and had young daughters.

“When I first met Robin back in 2006 he was so charming and caring,” says Cara.

“Robin was like a guardian angel. He was exactly what I needed at the time but now looking back I wonder if he always had this in him and I fear he targeted me because I had daughters.”

Cara (36)says things changed when they had their first child together.

“He became more aggressive and seemed to be jealous of the baby because he wasn’t getting as much attention as he did before.

“He started losing his temper and the relationship started to go downhill. We got married in 2014 but we split up two years later.”

The abuse of Joanna started in 2013.

Joanna said: “I blocked it out of my mind for a couple of years and only told my mum when I was 14.

“By then my mum and him had separated.

“I went to the police and made statements and he was arrested shortly afterwards. He denied it for ages and like I say, he laughed at me in court.

“He must have thought he would never be convicted or that I wouldn’t be strong enough to go through with it.

“I would just like to say to any girl or woman going through something like this – don’t suffer in silence – speak out.”

Armstrong was sentenced to three years in prison, suspended for three years on each of the six counts he pleaded guilty to.

Cara said: “In court they made more of his learning difficulties and gave him credit for pleading guilty – even though he didn’t plead guilty for years.

“They even mentioned he had suffered a heart attack and needed a stent put into his heart. You would have thought he was the victim the way they were getting on.

“I just wanted justice for Joanna and was shocked he wasn’t sent to jail. My message to any woman out there is – don’t go near this man.”

He was ordered to sign the sex offenders register indefinitely and is barred from working with children and must not have any contact with any children unless supervised by

social services or other officials designated by the court.

He is subject to a sexual offences prevention order (SOPO) for the next five years.