Helen McGonigle, who was sexually abused by Irish priest Brendan Smyth when she was six years old, believes the priest also murdered a child during his time in Rhode Island. McGonigle says that Smyth warned her by saying she would "end up like the body in the woods" if she told anyone about the abuse.
The Anglo-Celt reports on the connection McGonigle made between Smyth’s chilling comments and the finding of a child’s remains in the woods near her school in the 1960s. The discovery of the body, however, came about after Smyth laid down his threat on young McGonigle.
McGonigle notified police of the connection she made in 2007. Police, however, confirmed to the Anglo-Celt that they were not able to launch an investigation in regards to McGonigle’s theory because of the amount of time that had since passed, the death of Smyth, the time-frame quoted in her statement and that their older records were not digitally stored.
Brendan Smyth had bounced around parishes in Ireland, Wales and the US, committing unthinkable abuses on over 100 children along the way. Helen McGonigle was only six years old in 1967 when she encountered her first abuse from the Irish priest. Smyth had been serving as priest at her parish Our Lady of Mercy, in the Diocese of Providence, in Rhode Island since 1965.
"All I wanted to do was to escape, to fly away,” recalls McGonigle to CNN about when Smyth entered her bedroom from a sliding glass door from the backyard. “There were little cubbies in my room -- a twin bed with a headboard that had little cubbies. I just wanted to be tiny enough to hide in those little cubbies so he couldn't see me."
McGonigle adds how Smyth went on to abuse both her sister and mother as well. She blames Smyth for her sister’s suicide in 2005, as well as her mother’s mental breakdown. Six others from McGonigle’s parish have come forward to say they were also abused by Smyth, including one of her childhood friends, a neighbor.
Brendan Smyth was ultimately convicted of dozens of counts of child abuse in both Ireland and Northern Ireland. He died of a heart attack in prison in 1997. His grave in Ireland had concrete poured over it in order to prevent vandalism, and a year after his burial survivors succeeded in having the title ‘Reverend’ officially removed from the site.