Friday 20 April 2018

Men guilty of witches’ coven sex abuse

Ryan Hooper

TWO men accused of carrying out sex abuse on children as part of a witches' coven have been convicted of several offences.

Peter Petrauske and Jack Kemp were said to have donned ceremonial robes and pagan paraphernalia before abusing young girls in Cornwall in England during the 1970s.

Police believe one of their victims may have been as young as three when the abuse started.

The pair, aged 72 and 69 respectively, showed little emotion as they were led from the dock at Truro Crown Court and into custody.

Petrauske, who described himself as the high priest of a white witches' coven in St Ives, Cornwall, was convicted of one count of rape, one count of aiding and abetting an attempt to rape, and one count of indecent assault, all by unanimous verdict.

Kemp was unanimously found guilty of indecent assault and indecency with a child, as well as seven other sexual offences by a majority verdict.

The pair's victims gave harrowing evidence from behind a screen during the three-week trial. They said they were abused by their tormentors, before being given money and sweets to buy their silence.

In a dramatic twist, witnesses also named murdered pagan Peter Solheim and notorious Cornish paedophile Stan Pirie as among their abusers.

The former was a 56-year-old parish councillor whose body was found five miles off the Lizard Peninsula, Cornwall, by fishermen on June 18 2004. He had been drugged and mutilated with a machete or an axe.

The child abuse was only investigated further by police last year when Kemp was arrested in connection with another incident, causing rumours to spread around his home town of Falmouth and prompting the alleged victims of the historic offences to contact detectives.

Petrauske was backed up by female members of the coven who said that, while children were occasionally present, nudity never played a part in the ceremonies. One female friend also described him as "a gentleman".

Kemp denied any involvement in paganism, saying it "wasn't his cup of tea", and said he was the victim of a bizarre conspiracy. He said the girls were wrong to name him in the case.

Kemp was cleared of five charges, while Petrauske was also found not guilty of one count.

The public gallery was packed with the defendants' family members and supporters during the trial, some of whom walked out as the jury foreman returned the verdicts.

Judge Graham Cottle said the two men will be sentenced this afternoon.

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