A children’s home owner, a local radio DJ and a professional wrestler were among members of a paedophile ring that preyed on vulnerable boys in north Wales in the 1980s, a court has heard.
The boys, who were often isolated, were manipulated by members of the ring and groomed with treats ranging from alcohol to car trips and meals, it was claimed.
Victims as young as 10 would be plied with amyl nitrate, or “poppers”, and passed around the group, the jury was told. Sometimes they were given money by the abusers.
Seven men, all in their 50s, 60s and 70s, deny a total of 47 offences of sexual abuse against five alleged victims. The prosecution alleges the charges are only a sample of the abuse suffered. The men deny all offences.
Opening the case at Mold crown court in north Wales on Tuesday, Eleanor Laws QC told the jury: “This case is concerned with the activities of a predatory pedophiliac ring operating in the Wrexham area.”
She said the home of former wrestler Gary Cooke, also known as Mark Granger, was at the centre of the ring. Boys were allegedly abused at his house in a village just outside Wrexham, at a nearby bar called Snowy’s owned by another defendant, David Lightfoot, and at other addresses in the area.
Laws said: “Young boys were sexually abused and passed around the group. It would appear that troubled boys and young teenagers would congregate at Cooke’s home, where they would watch pornographic movies, would be plied with drink, given amyl nitrate, which would relax muscles, and sexually abused. Afterwards, on occasions, they were given money.
“The boys were young, vulnerable sometimes isolated by family circumstances and manipulated by Cooke and others. No doubt chosen for the fact that the defendants could exploit their youth, any difficulties they were in at the time and groom them using treats, alcohol, cinema trips, car trips, pornography and above all; attention, leading to grave sexual offences.”
Laws said the main witness in the case alleged he had been abused in the early to mid-80s by all seven defendants – along with three other men including a driving instructor and teacher, who are both dead. He said he was introduced to Cooke, now 64, by a friend.
On his first visit, when he was 12 or 13, he was shown a pornographic film and sexually assaulted, it was alleged. Later he was “pimped out” to other men, the prosecution claims. Cooke would pull up in his car outside the boy’s family home and whistle for him.
Sometimes they would go to Snowy’s bar out of hours. He and another boy would help themselves to beer and play on the gaming machines. “To me it was great and exciting,” the alleged victim told police.
Another witness due to give evidence has said he went “seriously off the rails” after the abuse began and only escaped Cooke by being taken into care.
The prosecution alleges that a man called Roy Norry, a DJ for the local radio station Marcher Sound, was also involved in the ring. Norry told police that he lodged with Cooke and saw lots of “young chickens” – his name for the boys who visited – but had not abused them. The court was told that one victim claimed Norry suffered a cut once when he tried to pull a boy on top of him as he sat on a glass-covered table.
Also accused of being involved in the abuse is Roger Griffiths. One of the alleged victims recalled him wearing a gold watch and driving a white convertible Mercedes.
The alleged victim said he could not recall the man’s surname but the prosecution said this was Griffiths, who in the late 1970s and early 80s owned the Gatewen Hall children’s home and worked as a teacher at the Wrexham special education centre. The jury was told that in 1999 Griffiths was convicted of sex offences against children in his care at Gatewen Hall.
Cooke, from Leicester, is accused of 17 counts of sexual abuse: Lightfoot, 72, from Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, 10 counts; Norry, 55, of Connah’s Quay, Flintshire, eight counts; Griffiths, 76, from Wrexham two counts.
Also on trial are former abattoir manager Keith Stokes, 62, from Chester (seven counts); taxi driver George Phoenix, 63, from Wrexham (one count); former civil servant Eddie Huxley, 70, from Wrexham (two counts).
The trial continues.
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