Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ghost of child abuse haunts shipwreck

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When he heard about the fire, he drove out the next day to see what remained of the MS Lord Selkirk for himself.

But seeing the burned-out ship, set ablaze last week in what police believe was the work of arsonists, didn't make him feel any better -- the memories run too deep.

"Seeing the scorched marks of its interior, that's how that boat should look to me," he said Monday. "I wanted to get on that boat with a sledgehammer and pound the s out of it."

The 50-year-old was one of 14 men who stepped forward a decade ago to tell police they had been sexually assaulted on the boat as young boys in the Lord Selkirk's heydays in the early 1970s.

Their stories led to the conviction of former first mate Robert George Lemieux in 2004.

Lemieux worked on the Lord Selkirk in 1973 and 1974 before going east to work on the Great Lakes. He preyed on young boys during the summers the Lord Selkirk sailed Lake Winnipeg by offering them rides on his mini-bike or free ice cream in exchange for sexual favours.

Lemieux was sentenced to four years in prison and died shortly after his release.

Police said a decade ago they believed the victims who came forward were just the tip of the iceberg.

"It was a horror show, for sure, and more than we'll ever know," a former investigator said.

The man, one of the first to come forward a decade ago, said he's speaking out again to let Manitobans know the Lord Selkirk should not be portrayed as a vital part of Manitoba history.

"A lot of lives, including mine, we're affected by what happened on that boat," he said. "One man caused a lot of carnage."

The fire broke out last Tuesday and took several hours to extinguish. RCMP continue to investigate.

The boat is to be cut up for scrap.

"I have to deal with this for the rest of my life and to think that I can forget it and put it aside and never worry about it again, that's a farce, that's a myth, because you just don't," the man said. "I turned 50 this year, but there are days when I feel like I'm 10 again because I can't keep it together."

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 26, 2012 A6

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