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Simon Harris: Kenyan boys recall how Briton abused them

Simon Harris in Gilgil Image copyright West Mercia Police
Image caption Harris would drive into the town of Gilgil and offer street children food and money to go home with him

For close to two decades Simon Harris drove through the streets of Gilgil, a small vibrant agricultural town in Kenya's Rift Valley surrounded by rolling hills.

A well-known British aid worker, he used his position to prey on street boys.

The 55-year-old has now been sentenced to more than 17 years in jail after he was found guilty of eight charges of indecent and sexual assault, and four of possessing indecent images of children.

When British police launched their investigation into his activities, 40 victims came forward alleging they had been abused.

In order to make the trial at Birmingham Crown Court more manageable, only 11 victims gave evidence via a video link during the trial.

Image caption The abuses came to light during a visit to the town by a British documentary team in 2013

In Gilgil I met two of Harris' victims who were part of the initial investigation.

Now in their early 30s, they first came into contact with the British paedophile when they were teenagers.

Lured

John, not his real name, says he was 13 years old when he met Harris.

"When we saw his car we would always run after it," he said.

"If Simon was specifically interested in you, he would tell you to remain in the car. Then he would take you to his house."

Allan, also not his real name, says Harris took advantage of their vulnerability and used that to lure them to his house locally known as ''the green house''.

"We knew when we go to Mr Harris' house, we will get food.. new clothes and [we] will get some money," he said.

Image caption Harris' home in Gilgil is now empty

Both victims agreed to accompany me to the green house.

After driving on a rough dusty road about 8km (five miles) from the town centre, we arrived at Harris' now deserted residence.

It was a green-roofed bungalow standing on a five-acre plot on the slopes of one of Gilgil's hills.

'Given beer'

The area is quite remote and that probably explains how Harris was able to abuse his victims without being discovered.

Dry leaves dotted what was once a well-manicured lawn and goats roamed freely.

Locked inside the garage was his white land rover that he used to ferry street boys.

Image copyright West Mercia Police
Image caption Harris was head of the gap-year charity VAE, which placed British volunteers in Kenyan schools

The two young men said the residence was a painful reminder of what they went through.

''After we take some food, he would get some beer from his fridge so we get drunk [and] he can touch you everywhere," said John.

"Then he would take you to the bath, then to his bedroom and many things would happened there,'' he said.

'Outcasts'

For Allan, Harris' conviction is not justice enough.

"For me it's good he has been found guilty but I would request the British government to compensate us, victims."

He says the community in Gilgil can be very judgemental and those identified with the case feel ostracised.

"Nobody loves us, nobody can give us jobs. The community just views us as outcasts because most of them believe that we were doing it in return of favours and money.

"They don't understand that we were very young to know what was happening."

Image caption Street children say they face much prejudice
Image caption Many of them were forced on to the streets because of poverty

Harris committed the sexual offences while running a charity he set up in Gilgil in the 1990s.

The abuse only came to light in 2013 when a British documentary team making a film about the plight of Gilgil's street children found out information about his activities.

'Shameful'

The documentary highlighted how the complaints of some of the street children were ignored.

Dan Nderitu, who worked for a local organisation helping neglected children, said he had reported his concerns to the Kenyan police.

Giving evidence during the trial, he said officers simply refused to believe the word of street children.

"They are like small wild animals criss-crossing the streets, people don't like them, people think that they are not good children," he said, explaining local prejudices.

He said many of the children would also not want to admit to being assaulted.

"How shameful it is for a small boy to be abused by an old man? They chose to keep it to themselves and after all even if they went public who was ready to listen? Nobody was."

The two victims I spoke to are no longer living on the streets.

They are now casual labourers, getting work when they can and hoping that one day society will accept them.

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