Mum...your husband is a paedophile priest: Joan Clayton spent 13 years with 'kind, gentle' Bill Carney until her son confronted her with some damning evidence

The Mail, UK/March 6, 2011

Joan Clayton was sitting on the veranda at her villa, overlooking the beautiful Atlantic under a clear blue sky, when her son showed her an article that would destroy her holiday - and Joan's life as she knew it.

She had arrived in Lanzarote just days earlier with her husband, Bill Carney, looking forward to a two-week break from the demands of running their busy guest house in Scotland. Joan was hoping to relax, sunbathe and have a chance to plan with Bill their imminent retirement to the rolling Cotswolds in England.

Then her adult son Paul rang her mobile, sounding upset and urgent. He said he had to talk to her and left his own holiday on the Spanish mainland to meet Joan in Lanzarote.

He immediately sent her husband away, asking to speak to her alone. She knew something had to be wrong but she could never have imagined the revolting news that he would share.

'While Bill went off for a walk, Paul opened the laptop and told me he had something to show me,' Joan told the Irish Mail on Sunday. 'He said he wished I didn't have to read it but said it was his duty as my son to do what he was about to do.

'He went online and called up a newspaper article about the Murphy Report, which, at the time, I'd never heard of. I still wish I never had heard of the Murphy Report.'

It was there that Joan read for the first time that her husband had been cast out of the Roman Catholic Church following dozens of complaints about his abuse of juveniles.

The Murphy Report labelled Carney a 'serial sex abuser' and, in a damning 40 pages, chronicled how he was linked to at least 32 complaints and suspicions of abuse.

'I read about what Bill was supposed to have done and I just felt physically sick,' said Joan. 'I couldn't believe what I was reading. I couldn't believe this was the same Bill - my Bill - doing all these vile, awful things to these poor young boys.

'When Bill returned, I couldn't look at him, let alone speak to him, so I asked Paul to deal with it. Paul and Bill went for a long walk together and spoke privately for some time but I'm unsure of exactly what was said.

'I was too upset, confused, emotional and, yes, cross, to talk to Bill then so, when they got back to the villa, I told Paul I needed to get away and try to get my head around what I'd read about my husband.

'I just didn't know what to think at that stage but I knew there was no way I wanted to share a bed with him that night.'

Joan knew Bill had once been a priest, drummed out of the Catholic Church, he'd always told her, because of his drinking. His alcoholism had gripped him so tightly, he'd explained, that when parishioners could no longer decipher his increasingly incoherent sermons, their complaints grew so loud and frequent that he was expelled.

So he'd said.

But now, in the winter sun in the early afternoon at their luxurious villa, Joan was learning a different truth.

The Murphy Report, compiled by Judge Yvonne Murphy on how the Dublin archdiocese handled sex abuse complaints against its clergy, identified the former Father Carney as a paedophile. In fact, it was his assaults on two altar boys that had led to his expulsion 30 years earlier.

Not that he admitted it, even when confronted with the evidence on that winter's afternoon in November 2009.

'He told me the report was a pack of lies,' Joan said from the Gloucestershire home where she once believed she would share the rest of her days with Carney.

There is no denying, however, that during his time as a priest in Dublin, Carney pleaded guilty to two counts of indecent assault and he was given probation. Six families were paid compensation by the Catholic Church and, in 1992, Carney was defrocked after church authorities convicted him under canon law of child sex abuse.

However, the sexual predator refused to leave the parish house where he lived until the Church paid him €35,000.

A psychiatric assessment of Carney included in the Murphy Report describes the former priest as having a 'psychopathic personality disorder'. More worryingly, the assessment states that the former priest's 'refusal to acknowledge his paedophilia means the prognosis for a cure is bleak'.

And Carney still refused to acknowledge his guilt to his wife in Lanzarote - and stayed on the island while she returned to Scotland to put their affairs in order and separate their lives.

Last night, she told for the first time of her relationship with the disgraced priest, whom she still calls 'my Bill'.

She described how they met in 1995 at what she described as a 'grab a granny' singles night at the Golden Valley Hotel in Cheltenham, about 15 miles from her home.

Divorced six years earlier from the father of her three grown-up sons, Joan went along to the disco with a group of female friends. 'Bill was with a few of his mates and we got chatting,' said the former nurse.

'He had a nice way about him. He was very gentlemanly and he seemed kind and gentle with it.

'He told me he was running a pub for a friend of his, the Prince Arthur in Gloucester. It's a Pizza Hut now.

'He was on soft drinks but he bought me a glass or two of wine and we had a few dances. I liked him.

'At the end of the night, he asked me for my phone number and I gave it to him without hesitation because I wanted to see him again and get to know him.'

But getting to know Carney wasn't going to be straightforward. It would be almost two years - by which time they were living together - before Carney told her he was once a priest. Even when he revealed his ecclesiastical past, he concealed the reason for his defrocking.

Idyllic: Joan and Carney ran a Scottish guesthouse together

'He said he'd been asked to go away and beat his drink problems,' she said. 'He told me he was a chronic alcoholic and that the people in church for his services were no longer able to understand what he was saying because he was slurring his words so badly.

'But he said he'd conquered the disease and that he hadn't had a drink for 30 years. I never saw him touch a drop of alcohol.

'I was full of admiration for what he'd achieved in beating alcoholism and I fell in love with him very quickly. He was the most adorable, good-hearted man.'

Their relationship soon grew serious and, in the late 1990s, the couple moved to St Andrews in Scotland, where they bought an eight-bedroom guesthouse overlooking the sea. In 2004, they married.

'It was hard work but we had the most wonderful time. We put our hearts and souls into making the business a success and enjoyed the rewards.

'At the end of every season, we'd have a nice holiday, which is why we were in Lanzarote. We were preparing to retire at the time. I was almost 70 and we decided we'd worked hard enough for too long. We put the guesthouse on the market and planned to move back to this house here in Northleach, the town where I was brought up and had spent so much of my life.

'We'd gone on holiday to recharge our batteries and discuss our retirement plans in detail.'

But those discussions never happened. Instead, Joan endured harrowing discussions with her family about how the life she'd planned with her husband could never be.

On the night she learned the awful truth, Joan moved out of the villa she and Carney were sharing, then left him alone on the island.

'Paul took me to a hotel and the next day, we got a flight home and I went to Scotland on my own to wait for Bill, who I hoped would soon come home and tell me it was all a terrible misunderstanding and prove to me he wasn't the person who described in this report.'

But Carney was in no hurry to return to Britain. Instead, he remained in Lanzarote for a year, leaving his wife to handle the sale of the guesthouse and furniture.

Two months after Paul confronted Carney in Lanzarote, Joan began divorce proceedings and now lives alone in the neat, detached home in Northleach. She says she still loves the former priest and will carry him in her heart 'until the day I die' - but her family insisted she could no longer be his wife.

'It caused absolute hell in my family. I've got three sons and they wanted me to have nothing more to do with Bill. They told me the best thing - the only thing - I was to walk away.

'And my mother, who is 88, sat me down and said: 'If you go back to Bill after this, you'll have to leave the country because you'll be hounded for ever more here and you'll be married to a man your family detest.

'I suppose I had to choose between Bill and my entire family.

'He made the decision easier because for a whole year after I first saw the report, he'd left me to sort out all our joint responsibilities, like selling up the guesthouse and sorting our possessions out.

'I literally didn't hear from him for a whole year. He just stayed in Lanzarote and didn't give a damn about how I was feeling or what I was going through back in Britain - and I was going through hell.

'I thought he was incredibly selfish for that.'

Eventually, towards the end of 2010, he returned to Britain and agreed to meet Joan in Morecambe on the Lancashire coast, where she was on a break, on a bitterly cold winter's day.

'He looked much the same, a little older and a little sadder maybe, but he was still my Bill - the Bill I loved.

'I asked him to tell me the truth about what I'd read in the report and he looked me in the eyes and said it was a pack of lies. He said that even though he'd been a useless drunk at the time, he'd have remembered if he'd done what the report said he'd done.

'He denied the assaults and he insisted he had never been interested in young boys in that way. Certainly, in all the years I knew him, he never once showed any sign that he was into boys, young or old. We had a normal, full, loving relationship, emotionally and, yes, physically.

'I believed him 100% because I loved him and trusted him and because I didn't believe the man I loved could ever be capable of the things he was accused of. I still believe him, to this day.'

Her head won out over her heart, however, and by the time they met again she was resolute in her decision to end their relationship.

'I'd already made up my mind that there was no way back and I'd left him for good,' she said. 'But I wanted to have that last meeting so I could look him in the eye and ask him what had happened all those years ago.

'We were standing on the beach in our coats against a wintry breeze.

'We chatted for an hour or two and we had one last hug as we stood on the beach, then I left for my hotel alone. I didn't look back.'

The guesthouse sold for £450,000 (€525,000) and Joan agreed to give Carney £100,000 (€116,000) in cash while she kept the remainder to pay off the mortgage on the house where she now lives.

The gold band Carney gave her on their wedding day has been sold on eBay for £30 and every photograph of him burnt by her sons.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.