Sussex priest Keith Wilkie Denford 'sexually abused boys'

Father Keith Wilkie Denford
Image caption Father Keith Wilkie Denford denies four charges of indecent assault

A Church of England priest used the respectability of his cassock to groom and sexually abuse young boys along with his organist, a court has heard.

Father Keith Wilkie Denford breached the trust of two boys' parents, jurors at Hove Crown Court were told.

The priest, 78, from Shoreham-by-Sea, has pleaded not guilty to four charges of indecently assaulting two boys.

Organist Michael Mytton, 68, from East Chiltington, East Sussex, has denied aiding and abetting indecent assault.

He also denies five counts of indecent assault against two boys between January 1987 and September 1994.

'Gained trust'

The charges against Mr Denford, of Broad Reach Mews, who was the vicar at St John the Evangelist, in Burgess Hill, relate to the period between January 1987 and January 1990.

Opening the Crown's case at their trial, prosecutor Marcus Fletcher said the boys were molested over an 18-month period from when they were around 13-years-old.

At one time Mr Denford abused one of the boys aided by Mr Mytton following a meal at a restaurant in Cuckfield, and while in the back of Mr Mytton's Jaguar car, jurors were told.

Mr Fletcher told the jury of eight women and four men: "As a vicar everything is meant to be right, honest and reliable.

Image caption Father Keith Wilkie Denford worked as a vicar at a church in Burgess Hill

"We say that's not so, and we say that Denford used his position in the church to both groom and abuse these young boys, hiding behind his cassock.

"Over a period of time, he sought to gain their trust and, put simply, he was grooming them."

The court heard that it was not until last year that police were alerted after one of the boys, now in their late 30s, found out that Mr Denford was still in contact with children.

Through police investigation, the name of a third boy emerged and he disclosed that he suffered abuse at the hands of Mr Mytton, of South Road, East Chiltington, from around 1990 to 1994 when he was aged 10 or 11.

'Alcohol and bath'

Mr Fletcher said one of the boys had spoken of an event at Mr Denford's house when he and the other boy were asked to be waiters for guests invited for a meal and stayed the night.

"The guests were mainly male and comments were made about how lucky Keith Wilkie Denford was, and it was described as a sexually charged event," he said.

"After the guests had gone, the boys were given alcohol and a bath," jurors were told.

It was claimed Mr Denford got into a bath with one of the boys, and also went into one of their bedrooms and got into bed with him, pressing himself up against him in an intimate way.

Concluding his opening speech, Mr Fletcher said: "We say that both these defendants committed gross breaches of trust.

"The Crown's case is that it beggars belief that three men individually would independently fabricate similar allegations against these two defendants."

The trial was adjourned until Thursday.

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