Man in court on child sex charges

Image caption, The 56-year-old from Newcastle is accused of rape and indecency offences against a child

A man charged with raping a child has appeared before Newtownards Magistrates Court.

56-year-old Patrick Kilmartin from Bryansford Gardens, Newcastle is accused of rape and indecency offences against a child between 1985 to 1989.

The judge said it was part of potentially the biggest sex abuse investigation he had come across.

His solicitor told the hearing his client denied the charges.

The charges are in connection with an ongoing police investigation into historical sexual abuse in the County Down area dating back to the 1970s.

A detective constable told the court there was a high level of community anger at the scale of the abuse.

The district judge Mr Hamill asked if there were potentially more suspects and the police officer in court confirmed there could be.

Earlier this week, as part of the same enquiry a former husband and wife in their 50s, were in court charged with physically and sexually abusing their five children in the 1970s, 80s and early 90s.

They faced 65 counts including rape and child cruelty.

A former part-time RUC reservist also appeared in court on a series of serious child sex abuse charges.

All of the accused were remanded in custody.

Detectives have now questioned 13 people as part of their ongoing investigations since last Friday.