Orange Order using convicted rapist to teach members how to be ‘active citizens’
Twelve years ago William Wilkinson was sent down for seven years for the rape and attempted rape of a vulnerable woman in her own home
Hugh Jordan Sunday World
19th December 2022
A convicted rapist is being used by the Orange Order to teach members how to be ‘active citizens’.
Former DUP politician William Wilkinson (45) is pictured here making a presentation at an Orange Hall in Portadown – but those attending are clearly unaware of his sick past.
Twelve years ago he was sent down for seven years for the rape and attempted rape of a vulnerable woman in her own home.
At the time, Crown Court judge Mr Justice Millar also ruled that Wilkinson’s name should remain on the Sex Offenders Register for the rest of his life.
But today, Wilkinson – a one-time associate of the late loyalist child abuser Davy Tweed – tours Orange Halls giving lectures on ‘Active Citizenship’ and ‘Contested Heritage’.
A former political researcher at Stormont, Wilkinson also offers funding advice for unionist community and cultural groups.
Last night, the Orange Order leadership was unable to state if the organisation had implemented adequate safety procedures before providing Wilkinson with privileged access to its premises and membership.
In many cases, Orange Halls double as community hubs. And it is our understanding Wilkinson was allowed to come and go without supervision.
Rev Mervyn Gibson, secretary to the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, told the Sunday World: “I’m aware of who William Wilkinson is. And I know about the court case, but I’ve no further comment to make.”
Wilkinson is pictured here making a presentation to brethren at Carleton Street Orange Hall in the Orange Citadel of Portadown.
And Sunday World inquiries revealed almost all of Wilkinson’s seminars are publicly funded – including this one, which was paid for by the Heritage Lottery.
The former jailbird currently acts as a funding specialist to a variety of unionist victims and community groups across Northern Ireland.
But when we caught up with him at his Belfast home this week, the normally chatty Wilkinson was tight-lipped about his criminal past.
Sports car-driving Wilkinson was still in bed when we made a mid-morning call to the smart semi he shares with his wife in the east of the city.
The property is a short distance from the former family home of his boyhood hero, the Reverend Ian Paisley.
Wilkinson eventually appeared at the door still wearing his pyjamas under a zipped-up body warmer.
We asked him if he’d care to explain in detail his company Lexxer Solutions’ connection to funded community groups and projects in Northern Ireland.
We also made him aware members of the public had expressed concern about his presence at community events in Orange Halls.
And we also asked Wilkinson if those attending his ‘Active Citizenship’ and ‘Contested Heritage’ courses were aware of his murky past and sex offender convictions.
“What business is it of yours?” Wilkinson demanded to know.
And when we asked Wilkinson if the woman he married last year knew he was a convicted rapist, he barked: “Everyone is perfectly well aware of my past.”
We then told Wilkinson that members of the public had expressed concern to us that his company website fails to mention he is a convicted sex offender.
“Why would I put that on my website?” asked Wilkinson.
And before closing the door on us, the clearly irked Wilkinson said: “Well, anyway, that’s enough for now.”
A one-time DUP representative on Ballymena Borough Council, Wilkinson was jailed for seven years when he was convicted of two serious sex offences.
Following a trial – where the then 33-year-old pleaded not guilty – a jury unanimously found Wilkinson guilty of rape.
And his peers also found him guilty – by a majority of 10-2 – of the attempted rape of the same woman in August 2008.
Judge Millar also imposed a Sexual Prevention Order on Wilkinson. He ruled that he couldn’t have contact with his victim for a period of seven years.
And he further ordered that Wilkinson could not enter into an intimate relationship with a female without first declaring details of his previous conviction.
The jury heard how Wilkinson – who was engaged to another woman at the time – arrived drunk at his victim’s home. The pair had been in the habit of having sex once or twice a week, the court was told.
Wilkinson invited the woman out to a bar in Coleraine for a drink. And later they went on to a nightclub in Portrush.
But after she complained of feeling unwell due to the heat inside the club, they left by taxi for her home.
After arriving home, the woman put on her night clothes and went to bed. She gave evidence to the court that Wilkinson – who had continued drinking – removed his clothes and got into bed beside her.
The pair engaged in some kissing, but when Wilkinson attempted to have sex with her, the woman rejected his advances and repeatedly told him to stop assaulting her.
But Wilkinson continued to force himself on her, the woman told the judge. And despite her persistent demands that he stop, Wilkinson raped her.
Some time later, Wilkinson attempted to have sex with the woman a second time.
But she resisted forcefully. She repeatedly scratched Wilkinson with her fingernails and at the same time she demanded he leave her home immediately.
During the second attack, the victim tried to call the police on 999, but the handset was knocked from her hand before she could speak.
Fortunately, though, the call had successfully connected to the emergency services. And police officers were able to listen while the woman shouted at Wilkinson to “get off me”.
She was also overheard ordering Wilkinson to “leave me alone”. And she again demanded her attacker leave her home.
Police officers managed to trace the call. And when they arrived at the property, they found Wilkinson still in the woman’s bedroom, where he was arrested.
Wilkinson later told officers the sex which had taken place was consensual and that her phone call to the police took place when she was alone.
A month after he was sent down for seven years, sex fiend Wilkinson – who at the time lived with his widowed mother at Tully Road, Portglenone, Co Antrim – was back court trying to have his convictions overturned.
But the three Appeal Court judges ruled that the guilty verdicts against him were safe.
Wilkinson had been employed as political director with a victims group in south Armagh run by deceased campaigner and self-confessed loyalist paramilitary gunrunner Willie Frazer.
Wilkinson’s arrest and conviction led to a withdrawal of funding for Frazer’s group.
Five years later though – while he was still serving his jail sentence – Wilkinson was back in court again. He was accused of raping another woman when he appeared before the Crown Court in Antrim in 2012, but the case failed to proceed.
A prosecution lawyer told the judge he wouldn’t be offering evidence against the former DUP politician.
No reason was given for the Director of Public Prosecutions’ decision.
After quitting the DUP over its decision to share power with Sinn Féin, Queen’s University graduate Wilkinson entered into a short-term alliance with the now deceased paedophile and one-time unionist politician David Tweed.
Irish rugby international Tweed died in a motorbike accident last year.
It had been Wilkinson’s intention to follow Tweed into Jim Allister’s TUV party, according to sources. But his trial and subsequent convictions for rape and attempted rape brought a sudden end to his promising political career.
A number of years ago, Wilkinson – whose family are steeped in the Independent Orange Order in north Antrim – secured funding for a ‘Reconnect’ seminar aimed at building common ground with the much larger Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland.
Wilkinson appeared on platforms with the Reverend Mervyn Gibson and other prominent Orangemen and politicians.