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Richard Kerr: how I was trafficked from Kincora to Europa hotel

Joseph Mains took boys ‘in his care’ to Whip and Saddle bar to be picked up by guests

By Fiona O’Cleirigh | 5 June 2015

Kincora warden Joseph Mains took two boys in his care to the bar of the Europa hotel in central Belfast. He would buy them drinks, but that was not his only interest.

Mains would also “supply” the boys to guests who were staying at the world-famous Europa, according to one of those boys, Richard Kerr. He said that the other boy, Stephen, was a friend, but later committed suicide.

Kerr told Exaro that he was a schoolboy aged 14 or 15 when Mains and Raymond Semple, assistant warden at Kincora, first took him to Europa bar, the Whip and Saddle – in 1975 or 1976.

“They gradually make you feel that you are important, to the point you feel you cannot escape, that you are powerless” – Richard Kerr

Mains and Semple would later be jailed for six and five years respectively for sexual offences against boys at the Kincora boys’ home in east Belfast.

Kerr claims that the Whip and Saddle was well known as a meeting place for gay men, many with establishment connections.

“I did not know who I was going to meet,” recalled Kerr. “It would be on a weekend, like a Friday. We would go in the Whip and Saddle bar.”

“Mr Semple would go up to order the drinks. He would bring the drinks down.”

The men encouraged the schoolboy to have several drinks, he said. “The alcohol was hitting me after about three or four of them.” A man would then approach him. “They would talk and laugh and joke.”

He was made to accompany the guest to a room upstairs. “I would just go to the elevator with them.”

In a hotel room, he was subjected to sexual abuse. Sometimes, said Kerr, it was extreme abuse.

After several hours, he returned to rejoin Mains and Semple at the bar. “I would spend a few hours in there, and then I would come down,” he said.

After especially extreme abuse, Kerr told Exaro, his abusers would sometimes give him money, typically £10 or £20. He believes that they did so to try to justify their behaviour in their own minds.

“I think they did it as a way to cover up their guilt,” he said.

In no way, he said, did the money mean that he consented to what they did.

He also saw the cash payments as part of the grooming process. “That is to catch you. That is to create you. It may also, I think, be a way of encouraging you to do more horrible acts.”

There is no suggestion that the Europa continues to be used as a pick-up place for boys.

Kerr regards himself as having been groomed from when he was a young child in care at Williamson House in Belfast before he moved to Kincora when he was 14.

The approaches made to Kerr as a young boy were gradual, he said, and at first seemed innocent. “They would play around with me when I was eight, nine or ten years of age.”

“They would give me sweets, take me out on a trip. They may not do anything on the first time, may not try anything. They may try a little, give you a hug or a kiss, things like that.”

The abusers cynically used flattery and affection to cajole the boys, Kerr said. “They would tell you that they really like you, make you feel that they care about you, and then they keep making you feel important.”

“Sometimes, they want to take a little picture of you with your shirt off. And then they gradually start doing things.”

“They gradually make you feel that you are important, to the point you feel you cannot escape, that you are powerless. Totally powerless. And if you escape, you are in fear.”

“It is like you are being hypnotised.”

Men who abused him while he was at Williamson House were part of the circle of perpetrators after he moved to Kincora. “They followed me. They came to Kincora, some of these men, and took me out.”

He said that he was seen as compliant enough to be abused outside the homes.

And when he turned 16, Mains arranged a job for him at the Europa as a bellboy so that men could continue to abuse him there.

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By Exaro

Exaro News investigates matters of public interest and seeks to uncover the truth.