Mr Evans was aware that someone in authority needed to be told what was going on: I asked them would they jointly come over to see the Reverend Mother and I would make an appointment for them to meet her. I don’t know what night of the week or anything. Joe was the only one who decided he would come with me. We rang the doorbell over in the main building and I looked for the Reverend Mother and we went into the parlour, Joe, myself and the Reverend Mother. I can remember it so clearly. I sat on the left-hand side, Joe sat in front of me and the Reverend Mother was on my right. I would say for half an hour, three quarters of an hour we talked about the general interference and Joe, as a young lad of that age, was not prepared to turn around and say he’s touching me or feeling my private parts or naming the parts or what he was doing but he was interfering is the way he put it. It was vague enough and probably gives as much as I would give at that stage either.
Mr Evans recalled saying something to Thomas Pleece after he had spoken with Sr Astrid: ... But after the occasion of going seeing the Reverend Mother with Joe I remember saying something – Now, I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I think I said it to Thomas Pleece that if you are interfering with them boys, “You shouldn’t be interfering with them boys”, or “You should leave them alone” or “What the hell is going on” or something of that nature I said to him. His reaction was “What business is it of yours?” or “You are only such and such, what the hell are you going to do about it?” or something like that.
Sr Astrid had maintained that she had no recollection of anyone speaking to her about sexual abuse by Thomas Pleece, consequently Richard Evans was asked to spell out how explicit he had been with her: Well, I originally stated to the Reverend Mother that Thomas Pleece was putting his hands in under the bedclothes in interfering with the boys’ private parts and that Joe was there to make a complaint. He didn’t particularly say that Pleece was catching them, feeling their penises or anything but he was interfering with them under the clothes, their private parts I think is the way he put it. But there was no mention of other than that. From what has transpired since that, there was an awful lot worse than that going on. But that didn’t come out with Sr Astrid that night.
That meeting between Joe, Richard Evans and Sr Astrid took place at the beginning of the spring of 1974, some months after Thomas Pleece had been brought back to Kilkenny from his eight-month period of employment in Drogheda.
Mr Pleece stated to the Committee that he presumed that the complaint made and referred to by Dr Black and Sr Astrid was one of sexual abuse: You know, this is where the misconception was. I thought she was talking about the sexual abuse. I never dreamed that she was talking about physical abuse. She was under the impression, obviously, that it was physical abuse, you know ... I just took it for granted that one of the lads had said that I had abused them. Especially if it was Joe.
At all times, Thomas Pleece presumed that Sr Astrid had received a complaint about sexual abuse. He had been sexually abusing the boys and, in particular, had abused Joe, who he knew had made the complaint. It was only when he heard Sr Astrid’s statement to the Commission, that she had had no complaints of sexual abuse, that he questioned this assumption. At no time was the subject matter of the complaint raised with him. All he was ever told, by both Sr Astrid and Dr Black, was that a complaint had been made. No details of the complaint were ever spelt out to him.
Thomas Pleece agreed that the whole investigation conducted by Dr Black was a momentous occasion and he was worried. He had refused the older boys permission to smoke and that had caused problems but, because the complaint against him had come from Joe, a boy he had actually abused, he presumed the issue was sexual abuse: Well I had understood that that’s what he said to Sr Astrid because I was just putting two and two together when she said to me there was a complaint. There couldn’t be anything else because there was no physical abuse.
Although Thomas Pleece disputed the extent of the abuse he perpetrated on Joe, he acknowledged that abuse had occurred: You see because I went into Joe’s room and I fondled him, and I committed abuse on him, when I was confronted by Sr Astrid by a complaint I immediately thought that’s what it was, that Joe had said to her that I had gone into his room. So he was right, like, that part of it was right.
Sr Astrid stated that she had no memory of a meeting with Richard Evans and Joe in which Thomas Pleece’s sexual abuse of the boys was raised. She remembered that Joe came to see her once or twice, but did not remember Mr Evans accompanying him. She did not disagree with Mr Evan’s recollection, as she believed he was an honest man, but she did not remember it herself.
Sr Astrid was asked if she made Thomas Pleece aware in 1976 that Joe had made allegations of a sexual nature against him, as stated by him in his Garda statement. She replied, ‘No, that never – I have no recollection of that’. Thomas Pleece also said that Dr Black was brought in to conduct an inquiry. She was asked if she had brought Dr Black in to carry out an inquiry. She replied: Dr Black came regularly to St Joseph’s, he was just on his way to the – he called regularly to see us in St Joseph’s, to see had we any problems and usually he saw some of the girls. At that particular time the lads were inclined to run away a bit and come back to me and tell me he was tormenting them or at them. Well, I said wouldn’t – now he was come at that particular time and I said would you have a chat with the boys and see how they are, have they any special reason for running away.