Cornwall

'Rasputin research' led bard Les Merton to child porn

Les Merton Image copyright Chris Bowden
Image caption Les Merton denies abusing young girls

A Cornish bard accused of abusing young girls mistakenly accessed a website with indecent images of children while researching Rasputin, he told a court.

Les Merton, 70, wept at Truro Crown Court as he denied abusing the girls over a 20-year period.

Asked why he had given the site his credit card details, Mr Merton said he had "naively" entered them while researching the Russian mystic.

He accepted a police caution in 2005 over the matter. The trial continues.

Mr Merton is a poet and author of The Official Encyclopaedia of the Cornish Pasty.

He has pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of indecent assault and four of indecency with a child from 1983 to 2004.

Rasputin defence

When asked by defence barrister Jo Martin, if he had sexually abused any of the women who gave evidence against him, Mr Merton, 70, of Penryn Street, Redruth, replied: "No."

Mr Merton broke down in tears in the witness box as he gave evidence relating to the time of the alleged abuse.

Ms Martin asked the defendant how he had come to enter his details on what she described as a child pornography website, which led to him accepting the police caution.

The defendant told the court he had been researching Rasputin online and had accidentally gone onto the site and "naively" entered his details.

"I didn't look at any images once I saw the thumbnail images," he said.

Cornish bards are appointed by the Cornish Gorsedh which honours people for "outstanding contributions to Cornwall and its ancient culture, history and language".

The trial continues.

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