Couple jailed over 'appalling' sex abuse

A MIDDLE-AGED couple were starting jail sentences totalling 12 years last night after committing "appalling" ritual sex abuse on young girls.David and Bette Stalford, of Oak Hill, Hollesley, were found guilty of a string of offences against three children following a trial at Ipswich Crown Court in July.

By Danielle Nuttall

A MIDDLE-AGED couple were starting jail sentences totalling 12 years last night after committing "appalling" ritual sex abuse on young girls.

David and Bette Stalford, of Oak Hill, Hollesley, were found guilty of a string of offences against three children following a trial at Ipswich Crown Court in July.

The offences were committed more than 20 years ago when the couple lived at Great Whelnetham and involved "quasi-Satanic ritual" sex abuse.


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Appearing at the same court yesterday, David Stalford, 56, was jailed for nine years for three counts of indecency, two of indecent assault and six joint charges with his wife of indecency with a child.

Bette Stalford, 55, was jailed for three years.

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Judge Peter Thompson described the offences as "appalling" but added Bette Stalford had played a lesser role.

He called David Stalford "an evil man" and said the long-term effect of the abuse on the young girls, now adult, was to affect their attitude towards sex and cause them to suffer nightmares.

After the sentencing, a spokeswoman for the Crown Prosecution Service said the case had involved sex abuse claims that dated back further than most other cases of its kind.

Suffolk's Chief Prosecutor Chris Yule added: "With historical abuse cases such as this, where a substantial period of time has elapsed since the offence, the job of the prosecution is made increasingly difficult.

"I would like to thank the victims in this case for finding the strength not only to report this crime but also to give evidence in court. It is only through the strength of victims and witnesses that prosecutions can proceed.

"I hope that this result will help reassure people that wherever possible CPS Suffolk is dedicated to protecting the rights of vulnerable people and prosecuting those who commit crime."

During the trial, the court heard that the couple had engaged in what Simon Spence, prosecuting, called "quasi-Satanic ritual".

These particular allegations, the court heard, were made by two of the three female complainants in the case and involved the girls being made to strip naked and take part in rituals involving sexual touching and oral sex.

This happened over a period of months, around 20 years ago, and involved the wearing of robes over naked bodies, the robes then being removed for the sexual activity.

Allegations of sexual abuse of the third complainant went back as far as 1974, the court heard.

Sentencing of the couple had been postponed from July for a psychiatric report and pre-sentence report on Bette Stalford.

Yesterday, her barrister Steven Dyble, said the psychiatric report had not found she suffered from mental illness.

He asked that the "inevitable" jail sentence should not be longer than four years, as "an act of mercy".

David Stalford was represented in court yesterday by barrister Samantha Leigh.

She pointed out that the mitigation speech for David Stalford had been made at the end of the trial by the barrister representing him, Martyn Levett. She therefore had nothing to add.

Judge Thompson banned the couple from ever working with children and placed them on the Sex Offenders' Register for the rest of their lives.

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