Keighley Local News

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A church minister who sexually abused six female members of his congregation has been jailed for 21 years.

Rev John Wilson, 70, molested the vulnerable women as he exorcised the evil demons he claimed were inside them.

His wife Mary, 79, helped him by stripping one victim naked and holding her down as he performed an ‘internal ministry’ upon her.

 

Pastor Wilson committed the offences over three decades at the Liberty Pentecostal Church, in Keighley, claiming it was God’s will.

 

Despite the abuse, which has left them with severe psychological scars, one victim faced him in court to forgive him in person.

 

Sentencing Judge David Hatton QC quoted The Holy Bible at the devout Christian, and in particular the Gospel of St Matthew and The Sermon on the Mount.

 

“We were warned to beware of false prophets who would come as wolves in sheep’s clothing,” Judge Hatton told the husband and wife.

 

“It is further written that by their fruits thou shall know them.

 

“With a six week trial the jury came to know you by your fruits and has concluded you are indeed wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

 

Seven of the jury who convicted Wilson of 14 indecent assaults, a sexual assault and three counts of conspiracy to commit indecent assault with his assistant pastor Laurence Peterson returned to Bradford Court for the sentencing.

 

Wilson, who has two children with wife Mary, counted two orphaned sisters and a mother and daughter among those he abused. His victims ranged in age from 16 to 48, but all had turned to him for Christian help.

 

Judge Hatton said:”Instead of providing comfort and relief you sexually abused them behind a mask and beneath a cloak of Godliness.”

 

The judge said Wilson was a ‘charlatan’ who employed his method of extracting demons, not to cure the women, but for his own sexual gratification.

 

One victim, who had dreams of being a Christian missionary, was sexually abused from 1985 to 1992, from the age of 17 until shortly after she got married.

 

Devious Wilson convinced her parents that she was possessed by evil demons and only he could rid her of them.

 

Wilson, in ‘emotional blackmail’, sexually assaulted her on a weekly basis in private prayer sessions, his wife holding down the victim.

 

Mary aided and abetted her husband by stripping her naked and telling her she was ‘riddled with demons.’

 

Reading her victim impact statement Prosecutor David McGonigal, said she felt ‘brainwashed’ by Wilson and now feels ‘worthless’. She has severe mental health issues and has attempted suicide multiple times.

 

Wilson told a troubled orphaned teenager, who had suffered sexual abuse before joining his church, that he could speak to the ghost of her dead father. For 12 years, from 1984 to 1996, he preyed on her. The final time she screamed for help as Wilson molested her. Her husband tried to enter the room but Peterson jammed the door closed with a chair.

 

Bradford Crown Court heard one woman had an alcohol problem back in 1988 and entered The Liberty Pentecostal Church seeking help. Wilson told her ‘demons’ not drink was her problem and he performed his bizarre exorcism on her.

 

Today, the same woman, now in a motorised wheelchair, bravely read out her own victim impact statement to the court to accuse Wilson of almost wrecking her life and to forgive him.

 

Fighting back tears she told the court how she had undergone a hysterectomy in 1993 because Wilson had told her that demons were inside her womb.

 

“Because of your actions I almost lost my mind, my life, and my sense of identity and my faith,” she told him.

 

But she said that God never abandoned her.

 

“He has forgiven me so very much,” she said.

 

“God has forgiven me, who am I not to forgive you?

 

“My hope and prayer for you is that you will come back to the right way and let God’s mercy and love rewrite your life.”

 

Judge Hatton sentenced Mary Wilson on two counts of aiding and abetting her husband to 22 months imprisonment, suspended for two years.

 

 

Mitigating for John Wilson, Jo Sidhu QC, told the court he had been indoctrinated by the Pentecostal belief system from a young age, and some of those beliefs are at the end of the normal spectrum of Christianity.

 

Laurence Peterson, 59, who sat in the public gallery as his friend and pastor was jailed, is to be sentenced for conspiracy on 16 October.

 

Detective Constable Jodie Hayes, of the Bradford District Safeguarding Unit, said:

 

 

"The victims in this case were vulnerable people who had turned to the Wilsons for help.

 

 

"They put their trust in them hoping for comfort and guidance, but were taken advantage of and sexually abused.

 

"I hope today's outcome will bring them some closure and allow them to move forward with their lives.

"I also hope it will encourage other victims to engage with our specially trained officers, who will investigate every report sensitively and thoroughly to bring perpetrators to justice."


 

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