Home > Abuse, Child Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Torture > 78-year-old pensioner jailed for crimes against his children.

78-year-old pensioner jailed for crimes against his children.

A 78-year-old pensioner, who has name suppression in order to protect his victims, has been sentenced to 14 years in prison. His crimes span almost three decades, and include forcing his own children to have sex, raping his son’s girlfriends and brutally beating his children between 1963 and 1990.

Brutal abuser sentenced to 14 years in prison.

A man who terrorised his children for three decades has now lost his freedom. At Palmerston North District Court on Thursday, Judge Les Atkins sentenced a 78-year-old pensioner, who has name suppression to protect his seven victims, to 14 years in prison.

With “some reluctance” Judge Atkins said he did not impose a minimum sentence. “Your failure to take any responsibility for the agony you have caused people is extraordinary.” In a three-week trial last year, a jury found the man guilty of 21 charges including forcing his children to have sex, raping his son’s girlfriends and brutally beating his children between 1963 and 1990.

He has nine children and was married three times. Police have described the case as “one of the worst and most complex” of Operation Hope, an operation set up to manage uninvestigated reports of child abuse in the Wellington police district. The former railway worker became a life-long sickness beneficiary when he hurt his back.

Judge Atkins said the man did not accept what he had done and had tried to blame his offending on others. A psychological report about the man said he had a grandiose sense of self entitlement and psychopathic characteristics. He was still a risk to two daughters who supported him and were very much under his control.

The first complaints about the man were laid in 1974, but initial concerns fell on deaf ears and he was not arrested until January 2009. Complaints were laid with police in 1988 and 1990 but got nowhere. Today the man hobbled into court, supported by a walking frame.

Grey track pants were pulled high over his waist. When Judge Atkins read through the charges the man scoffed as he heard about his unsuccessful attempt to rape his daughter. At other times he shock his head, or mouthed “bullshit”, still unwilling to accept what he had done.

When his sentence was read, he didn’t flinch. The man stared back at his youngest son and one of his daughters as they read emotional victim impact statements to the court. For a second he flashed a smile as his son eye-balled him. Both children, whose names are also suppressed, were angry the man made the family go through a three-week trial.

“You have ruined so many lives and you have shattered me as a person,” his son said. “To me you are worse than a killer. A killer leaves his victims dead. You killed us and you kept us living. You killed our hearts, you killed our souls and you killed our spirits. At least when you are physically dead you don’t feel the pain anymore.”

The son said he tried to kill himself as the case progressed through the courts. And the man’s daughter, who is 49, said she always shied away from arguments. Judge Atkins praised the courage of the man’s victims in coming forward. Crown prosecutor Chris Shannon said the man should be sent to prison for between 19 and 23 years, with a set minimum term.

Mr Shannon dismissed concerns about the man’s health, noting the psychological report said he complained about his condition more ahead of court appearances. Defence lawyer Fergus Steedman accepted all convictions were appropriate, even if his client did not, but said the Crown’s suggested prison term was based on vengeance. A 10-year prison sentence was more appropriate.

The man was not a danger to the community as he had not offended since 1990. “[But] he’s allowed himself to forget the things that he’s done or the things he’s said. I don’t know how he’s done it,” Mr Steedman said. The lawyer was criticised by the man for the way he handled the trial, but Judge Atkins offered Mr Steedman support, saying he was skilful and experienced.

The Dutch-born man came to New Zealand in 1952. Between 1963 and 1990 he moved his family around the lower North Island. At various times he lived in Kaitoke, Pahiatua, Eketahuna, Dannevirke, Whanganui and Palmerston North. Twenty-five witnesses gave evidence at last year’s trial. The jury found the man not guilty on 11 charges relating to a girl who went to school with one of the man’s daughters.

Wellington district child protection team head Detective Senior Sergeant Tusha Penny said the sentencing was the culmination of two years of investigative work. “I want today’s sentencing to send a clear message to all communities across New Zealand that adult victims of historic sexual offending can come forward and can make a complaint to the New Zealand Police and know that it will be fully investigated.”

TWO-YEAR INVESTIGATION

Today’s sentencing marks the end of two years’ exhaustive investigations for police. Although, as Wellington District child protection team head detective sergeant Tusha Penny said, there might be even more abuse to uncover  more victims awaiting some sort of justice. “We do not accept that we’ve presented the totality of his offending,” she said.

“This case is a prime example of how we can get justice for victims of sexual offences, so if people are sitting there reading the newspaper, hearing this story, it’s really important that police send a message that victims of sexual offending can come forward and can make a complaint to us and that it will be investigated.”

The man was arrested in January 2009. The first person to come forward was one of his daughters, who lives in Wairarapa. Inquiries into her complaints gradually uncovered the sad story of decades of abuse. Those who testified in court, at the man’s three-week trial last year, were real heroes, Ms Penny said.

“Those victims, particularly when they’ve been abused as children, who come forward to make a complaint, who sit inside a courtroom and are subject to hours of cross-examination, they are heroes because that’s real courage under fire.” The officer in charge of the case, Detective Kylie Schaare, regularly spoke to victims on the phone at night. Often they were feeling suicidal and felt they had nowhere else to turn.

After the man’s trial finished last year, Ms Penny said some of his victims waited for two hours outside court for Ms Schaare to appear. “It was quite moving as I saw two of the male victims come up to her and hug her. I heard one of them say to Kylie, ‘we lost our faith in the police and you’ve given it back to us’.” Up to eight people worked on this case, which Ms Penny said was one of the more complex and demanding in Operation Hope.

The only comparison was with the Blenheim man, Stewart Murray Wilson, who was convicted in 1996 for sex offending over a 23-year-period, including charges of bestiality and rape. But making this case that much harder was the lack of remorse shown by the Dutch-born man, whose offending was predatorial and depraved, she said.

Ms Schaare agreed: “It just makes you more determined to get justice for these people when you hear what they’ve had to suffer and what they’ve gone through.”

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