Almost half a century passed before the police rang Con about the sexual abuse by a train enthusiast that derailed his life and intended career.
Con had always, always wanted to be an engine driver. But along with other boys, Con was preyed upon by Cecil Young, an authority on trains and steam engines with whom Con was connected through a group interested in railway history.
‘There has not been a day in my life that I never think about what [Young] did to me … He affected my career wish, my hobby, my relationships with females but most of all my self-esteem; and I am ashamed of myself for what he did to me and my life would be a lot different if that day … never happened. He has changed my life forever and I can never regain what he has taken from me.’
When he was 15, Con said he had asked his father numerous times if he could ring Young to inquire when steam trains would be running.
In documents given to the Royal Commission, Con said that one day Young took him on a trip out of town to photograph a train and visit a museum. His parents dropped him at a suburban train station about 10 am. He was collected by them about eight hours later. By then, Con had been sexually abused by Young who had driven him to several different isolated bush locations to assault him. The abuse included making Con strip naked and forced masturbation, and was a terrifying experience from which he was unable to escape.
Sometime later, while volunteering at another organisation, Con found Young waiting for him along the route to a train. But he rebuffed the older man’s entreaties to share a mud bath.
‘I just said, “Nuh!”’
Young stormed off, Con wrote, and Con then severed all ties to any organisation that involved Young.
He has told his former wife and subsequent partners only of being ‘touched up’ by Young. He has never revealed the full extent of the abuse he suffered that day.
What would be the point, he asked the Commissioner, in telling his surviving siblings, or in telling his parents when they were still alive? ‘It’s only going to make them feel worse.’
He received $10,000 compensation and some more money towards a training course as well as paid private counselling.
A person like Young, who had already been jailed for child sexual assault by the time he met Con, should never again be given access to children, Con felt.
Young, as a court later found when he pleaded guilty to molesting a number of boys between the 1960s and 1980s, was also given his old job back following the earlier conviction. Through it, he had access to children for another three decades.
Con’s main reason for coming to the Royal Commission was to ‘prevent [sexual abuse], however possible, wherever’ for other children.
He was surprised when the police rang and asked him to make a statement. They had been given his name by a boy he had known with a similar passion for trains, who thought Con might have been abused.
Young eventually pleaded guilty to multiple charges involving six boys.
‘There are times, since all this, the court cases and everything, it’s come back up I find I’m down drinking a lot at the moment … I also found that I’m having a flashback to the moment that I was in the back of the car with Young because that was the most scary part.
‘Yeah, I thought, “Oh, this is it. He’ll kill me next. The day is nearly over”.’
Marrying and raising children helped Con forget for a long time.
‘There was times too when [I thought], “I’m not going to let him beat me”.’
Despite everything, trains are ‘still my main hobby’, Con told the Commissioner.
‘It’s the greatest regret of my life not joining the railways and I often think, “Well, why didn’t I do it later in life?” And I think it was just fear. He [Young] may not have been there but … You just never know.
‘Just even now, I’d give anything to be a train driver.’