Cornwall 'paganism sex case' jury considers verdicts

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A jury in a Cornish child sex abuse case - which has alleged links to paganism - has been sent out to consider its verdicts.

Jack Kemp, 69, and Peter Petrauske, 72, deny multiple sexual assault charges against girls aged five to 14.

Some victims told the court they were abused as part of pagan ceremonies by men purporting to be white witches.

The prosecution at Truro Crown Court also named Peter Solheim as an abuser in the case. He was murdered in 2004.

'Local weirdo'

Mr Kemp, of Grenville Road, Falmouth, has denied 15 charges of sexual assaults on girls and Mr Petrauske, formerly of the Beacon, Falmouth, denies two charges of indecent assault and one of rape.

The two men are also jointly charged with aiding and abetting an attempt to rape, which they deny.

The court was told that Mr Petrauske and Mr Kemp were involved in a Cornish pagan group during the 1970s, in which children were allegedly plied with alcohol and made to undress.

Prosecutor Jason Beal said the duo had "used the cloak of paganism" to commit the offences.

He said Mr Kemp had "put up a number of explanations" for him being linked with the case, but they were nothing more than "diversions" or "red herrings".

Of Mr Petrauske, he said: "They [alleged victims] are not people who have just picked out the local weirdo. It is because of what he did to them."

Mr Beal said that some of the victims had also reported being abused by Peter Solheim.

'Witch-hunt victim'

Mr Solheim's body, mutilated by a machete or axe, was found five miles (8km) off the Lizard Peninsula, Cornwall, by fishermen in 2004.

His partner Margaret James was jailed for at least 20 years in 2006 over the death.

Mr Beal said: "When the police arrested Peter Petrauske, without them mentioning any names, he came out with the names Jack Kemp and Peter Solheim.

"He knew the names because he had been a part of that gang - not a gang of pagans but a gang of child abusers."

Sean Brunton, defending Mr Petrauske, said his client had been the victim of "a witch-hunt".

Jo Martin, for Mr Kemp, said the pagan aspect of the case was "high drama" and a conviction should not be based on her client's "previous behaviour" and "associations".

Previously an expert told the trial that paganism involved "nothing sexual" but was a belief in the sacred nature of the natural world.

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