Dana: My darkest hour… She’s the Eurovision darling who stood for Irish President. But here she lays bare the devastating fall-out from the malicious sex abuse claim that blew her family apart
Dana is worried sick about her brother. He takes pills for insomnia, pills for anxiety and pills for depression.
‘He’s been a physical and emotional wreck,’ she says. ‘He’s had to go to hospital I don’t know how many times because we thought he was having a heart attack. We’ve been very worried about him. He’s really been through the mill.
‘When this was at its height, we were both having death threats. There were terrible comments about us online. One person wrote “the only thing for John and Dana is a bullet to the head”.’
With Dana’s full support, John is now suing Scotland Yard and prosecutors for up to £5 million in a landmark cas
Dana With Her Brothers Gerald Brown (l) And John Brown At The BBC Studios In Manchester
Dana, the wholesome Derry girl who won Eurovision for Ireland in 1970 and became a global superstar, is referring to the torrent of abuse directed at her family following claims made a decade ago that her brother John Brown, now 67, had sexually abused two young girls from their extended family in the Seventies.
Dana, who later entered politics as Dana Rosemary Scallon and ran for the Irish presidency, stood accused of covering up her brother’s behaviour for more than 30 years.
‘They said I’d taken my brother to a priest, called Father Brown, to be cured,’ says Dana. ‘I mean . . .’ She rolls her eyes.
The allegations were made by a relative of Dana’s following a heated family row over an inheritance that had divided this large, once close-knit Catholic family. Neither Dana nor her brother believed any right-minded person would deem them credible.
But, in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal and seemingly desperate for celebrity scalps, the Metropolitan Police charged the happily married father with indecent assault.
He stood trial in 2014, when he was acquitted on every count of abuse. But his life is not as it was. It never will be. He has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress and continues to receive counselling.
With Dana’s full support, John is now suing Scotland Yard and prosecutors for up to £5 million in a landmark case.
He has initiated proceedings in the High Court in London against the Met for malicious prosecution and misfeasance in a public office. Legal papers claim police ‘deliberately chose not to pursue’ basic lines of inquiry that would have undermined the case against him.
Irish singer Dana Rosemary Scallon and her brother John Brown (right), at the Harrow Crown Court during the trial
Dana is the wholesome Derry girl who won Eurovision for Ireland in 1970 and became a global superstar
Why not run a check on the priest, Father Brown? If they had, they would have discovered that Father Brown died in the Sixties, a decade before the alleged abuse.
Similarly, HM Government’s Land Registry records would have revealed that a house at which the abuse was said to have taken place in 1971 didn’t even belong to the family until two years later.
Mr Brown, who has been married to wife Pat for 37 years and has three grown-up children, now believes the police were hell-bent on securing a ‘celebrity’ prosecution in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal, on account of his famous sister.
He has received messages of support in his action against the Met from Sir Cliff Richard and DJ Paul Gambaccini, who were also falsely accused of historical sex offences.
Mr Brown, who worked as Dana’s media adviser, says: ‘These are the most toxic allegations you could be accused of and the trauma that I and my family went through is still part of our lives today.
‘It was cruel and wrong — very wrong — to drag me into court on the lies that were being thrown around as part of the fallout from a family row. The police should have seen that in seconds.
‘Were it not for me being Dana’s brother, the case would never have been pursued. I want those responsible for the witch-hunt to be held to account.’
Dana agrees. ‘This is because of me,’ she says. ‘My brother has suffered all of this because of who his sister is.’
Dana was campaigning in the Irish presidential elections in October 2011 when a reporter pulled her aside to drop the bombshell that her brother, who worked for her campaign, was being accused of sexually abusing an underage girl.
‘I was in Grafton Street in Dublin,’ she says. ‘This reporter drew me over to the side of the street and his first question was, “What’s your opinion on the way the Catholic Church has hidden child sex abuse?” I took a breath to answer as he said, “because I have a signed affidavit from [the relative] that you hid her sex abuse for 30 years.”
‘I couldn’t say anything. I was really shocked. I knew where it must have come from because that accusation had been made before [by my relative] and I hadn’t believed it for a moment. But they hadn’t said that I’d hidden it for 30 years before. I thought it was diabolical. I love children. I’d never see a child harmed.’
That night, Dana took part in a live debate. Acting on legal advice, she made a statement about false and malicious accusations being made. Then she took to her bed.
‘I couldn’t get up for two days,’ she says. ‘Our legal adviser told me I’d be better off being accused of murder. We asked our [four grown-up] children to meet us. I said what was going to come out and told them I’d been advised to withdraw [from the election] but I wanted them to be part of the decision. Without exception, they said, “Don’t. It will make it look as if you’re guilty.” ’
Dana continued with her campaign, supported by her husband Damien. ‘I have such a good man,’ she says. It takes all the strength she can muster.
‘John had gone back home [to London] the day before the reporter came up to me because it was his daughter’s birthday or something.
‘He knew he had to tell his children before they read about it. He told me that when he told them he just wept. And his wife Pat is the most beautiful girl you could ever meet.
‘It was like being in the centre of a volcano. It was this seething atmosphere about the terrible revelations of hidden abuse within the Catholic Church and suddenly I was seen as a part of it.
‘I was running for President as someone who could be trusted. Even though people might not agree with me, the polls showed I was perceived as someone who could be trusted. Suddenly I was a liar and I was hiding a paedophile — but I still had to go back out and campaign because my children felt that if I didn’t, I was basically saying I was guilty.
‘But it was the last thing I wanted to do. I just want to hide.’ She speaks between sobs.
‘I just wanted to close the door and never go out. I remember opening the front door in Dublin. There were four women who were chatting in the middle of the street. My heart was pounding as I walked out over to them. They looked at me and a woman put her arms out and she hugged me and said, “Don’t worry. Everybody’s family has someone”. She meant my [relative].’
Dana is completely undone now. She pauses to pull herself together.
For the best part of 40 years, Dana, one of seven children, had been Derry’s favourite daughter after winning the Eurovision Song Contest with All Kinds Of Everything.
Suddenly, she had put her home town on the world map as a place of music rather than violence.
‘Music’s a very healing thing and Derry was so full of music,’ she says. ‘It brought families and communities together. My closest friends today are the friends I was at school with when I was ten years old. We may not talk for a year but when we do it’s like we were never apart — long, deep, lasting friendships. Those were the people who gave me the strength through this.’
In the end, Dana fared terribly at the election, receiving just 2 per cent of the vote. Her political career, which had included five years as an MEP, was at an end.
‘I became afraid to go out,’ she says. ‘I only felt safe in my home. My eyebrows fell out. My eyelashes fell out. That’s an awful thing for a woman. But as bad as 2011 was, I don’t think anything could compare to how terrible it was in 2014.’
The police investigation, which began during that presidential campaign of 2011, continued for the following two and a half years. It took seven months for them to arrest Dana’s brother. Neither he nor his famous sister ever imagined he would actually be charged.
‘I gave them an interview some time in 2012,’ says Dana. ‘I was with them for seven hours. I told them I didn’t live in the house where the abuse was supposed to have taken place at the time they suggested, that I’d hardly ever seen the complainant and certainly not in the summer when she said she was assaulted.
‘I just told the truth and thought, given the facts I was giving them, it would be impossible for the case to go forward — but it did.
‘I thought, “How can they pursue this when it’s so easy to prove it’s not true?” It was terrible for John. He was very, very shocked. He doesn’t cry easily; men don’t. But there was this sense of, this couldn’t be happening.
‘Neighbours were coming up to him saying, “We know what you’ve been accused of.” ’
Pat was warned about having ‘someone like that’ around her children. It was around that time that a man in Bristol, who was innocent, was falsely accused of being a paedophile and beaten to death. We were very fearful for John and very fearful for his kids.
‘The Met only had to look at the facts and they didn’t. They never took his computer. They never examined his phone.’
John stood trial on five counts of indecent assault against two women who claimed they were abused when under the ages of 13 and 16 in London, Essex and Northern Ireland in the 1970s.
‘The trial was horrendous,’ says Dana. ‘I remember my son saying he was afraid to tell people his name because our name, Scallon, was so distinctive. Our daughter, who was working in Dublin, said she’d walk into the office and computer screens would be turned off and newpapers closed.
‘It was that horrible, horrible feeling of “what are people thinking?” I feel heartbroken for my children, heartbroken for John and his wife and their children.
‘Every day during that trial was like a death sentence. I’ll tell you, the saddest thing was to look up and see my brother behind the glass locked partition. Then when the jury went out, there was the anxiety of thinking about what would happen to John. He would die if he was put in prison.’
Many of those who sat through the three-week hearing say they were convinced of Mr Brown’s innocence within a few days.
‘If people watching knew in the first week, surely the Met knew it before they dragged my brother through this horrendous experience, damaging his health, damaging the health of his family and humiliating him,’ says Dana.
‘They had the so-called evidence in their hands. Surely they knew?
‘I remember walking in through the door [for the jury to deliver their verdict]. John looked at me and he looked like a hare in the headlights. Our eyes locked and I said, “Don’t worry John. It’s going to be all right.”
‘But I didn’t know it was going to be all right. Nothing had been all right since those claims were made. John is such a . . . you know that saying “he’d give you the shirt off his back?” John would. I never believed it. I knew it wasn’t true. To undermine his character like that was the lowest of the low.’
Following the not guilty verdicts, police investigated seven prosecution witnesses from the trial for perjury and perverting the course of justice. After an inquiry lasting 17 months, prosecutors told Mr Brown in 2018 that there was insufficient evidence.
‘John would have been satisfied if they’d been charged,’ says Dana. ‘He believes they have said there’s not enough evidence because it would have revealed their determination to drag him to court, which is why he has started his civil case.
‘I’ll support my brother all the way through this. He should never have been in a court — never — and someone must answer for that.’
Additional reporting by Glen Keogh
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