Two men accused of being part of a paedophile ring involving murdered "witch" Peter Solheim have been given lengthy jail sentences for their part in "ritualistic, sickening" sex abuse of young girls. Jack Kemp and Peter Petrauske spent years tormenting their female victims, one said to be as young as three.
Both men had denied any involvement in the abuse, claiming they were victims of a witch hunt or conspiracy. But a jury at Truro Crown Court dismissed their protestations, convicting the pair of a string of offences dating back to the 1970s, as well as finding Kemp guilty of several more recent sexual assaults unconnected to Petrauske.
Jailing Kemp for 14 years and Petrauske for 18, Judge Graham Cottle told them: "The offences range from the extremely serious to the truly horrifying."
They are two of the surviving members of a paedophile ring, together with others whose names have repeated frequently in the trial who were members of a ring that operated in Falmouth (Cornwall) in the 1970s and 1980s. The trial has featured ritualistic, sickening abuse of young, young children. The scars left on (two victims, who cannot be named for legal reasons) are so obvious that it would seem extremely unlikely that either of them have any real prospect of recovery.
Both men were given a discount because of their age, the judge telling Petrauske he was likely to die in prison. Petrauske was said to be the "high priest" of a witches' coven in St Ives, Cornwall, and ordered the girls to carry out his sick fantasies. The court heard Kemp videoed the abuse, but also took part in the assaults along with his friends.
The duo's victims gave harrowing evidence from behind a screen during the three-week trial. They said they were then abused by their tormentors, before being given money and sweets to buy their silence. The abuse was only investigated further by police last year when Kemp was arrested in connection with another incident, causing rumours to spread around his home town of Falmouth and prompting the alleged victims of the historic offences to contact detectives.
Speaking after the case, Detective Constable Rick Milburn praised the bravery of the pair's victims, adding: "It was truly horrific abuse, the worst my officers and myself have ever seen. It was truly distressing for everyone involved."
Prosecutor Jason Beal said some of the assaults took the form of rituals with the young girls' wrists tied. One victim was taken to a house where pagans were present. "She was given alcohol, told to dance in front of the camera, and take her clothes off," - Petrauske said. When Petrauske was arrested last year, detectives discovered daggers, sheets, candles and a mask, the court heard. He immediately mentioned the names Kemp and - in a dramatic twist in the case - Solheim.
The latter was a 56-year-old parish councillor whose body was found five miles off the Lizard Peninsula, Cornwall, by fishermen on June 18, 2004. He had been drugged and mutilated by a machete or an axe.
But counsel for the defendants told the jury that the case against her clients was one of "no smoke without fire", after the jury had been told of Kemp's previous convictions for sexual offences several decades ago.
"You cannot convict someone solely on previous behaviour or his associations," - she said. "That would be entirely wrong."Kemp said he was the victim of a conspiracy.
The public gallery was packed with the defendants' family members and supporters, some of who walked out as the jury began to return their verdicts. They returned to court for sentencing this afternoon, with Kemp and Petrauske showing little emotion as Judge Cottle handed down the jail terms.
He told the pair: "You carried out appalling, indescribable offences against defenceless children."