January 2022

Churchgoer jailed for 20 years for raping 12-year-old girl

A Plymouth churchgoer who ‘blighted the childhood’ of a fellow worshipper by raping her when she was just 12 has been jailed for 20 years.

Ian Symonds started grooming the girl more than a year before the rape attack in a pub car park and went on to persuade her to have a three-year under-age relationship with him.

The 40-year-old brainwashed her into believing that God approved of them having sex and told her that the Virgin Mary was only 12 when she and Joseph first slept together.

He used his position as a drummer in a church band to meet and groom her and they had sex around 100 times, mainly in his works van in beauty spots including Stover Country Park near Newton Abbot.

The girl, who was nearly 20 years younger than him, only started having doubts about him when she watched Eastenders episodes which included a child abuse story line.

Her parents became suspicious when she was 15 and restricted their meetings but Symonds set up a joint Facebook page under false names which they used to exchange messages and explicit photos.

He also recorded a string of car karaoke videos in which he sang along to love songs in his van before pointing at the camera and saying ‘and I mean you’.

When she ended the relationship, he falsely claimed to have cancer to arouse her sympathies. In fact, he was a healthy bodybuilder who spent hours at a gym.

She wrote a victim personal statement which said she has distanced herself from the church and still suffers flashbacks and psychological trauma.

She said she cannot bear to be give flowers or chocolates because it still reminds her of the gifts which he showered on her when he was grooming her.

Symonds, aged 40, of Douglas Road, Plymouth, was found guilty of two rapes two rapes, five counts of sexual activity with a child and one of making indecent images of the girl by a jury at Exeter Crown Court last week.

He was jailed for 20 years by Judge Timothy Rose, who put him on the sex offenders’ register for life and banned any future contact with under age girls through a Sexual Harm Prevention Order.

He told him: “These were a series of profoundly serious sexual offences over three years. It is perfectly clear you developed a sexual interest and obsession with her.

“She was confused, as you would expect given her age and immaturity and the reality is that you brainwashed her into engaging in frequent and continued sexual activity.

“You bombarded her with gifts and comprehensively manipulated her in a way which blighted her childhood and has had a devastating effect on her emotional well-being. It was persistent and hugely damaging child abuse.

Mr Peter Coombe, prosecuting, said Symonds knew the girl’s family because they attended the same church and started grooming her with gifts when she was still ten or 11.

He raped her when she was 12 after taking her to a pub for dinner and then overpowering her in his car. She described it as horrible.

Symonds continued seeing the girl, sometimes picking her up from school in his works van and taking her to car parks in and around South Devon.

He forced her to have sex on one occasion by showing her a knife and saying he would use it to kill a member of her family unless she complied.

The Facebook messages, in which they used false names included some in which he told her that God had brought them together.

Mr Coombe said: “One message sent to her phone said effectively that their relationship was a gift from God. Another said Mary was 12 and Joseph 14 or maybe 19.

“He knew they both came from religious families and was trying to manipulate and control her.”

She broke off the relationship when she was 15 but he sent her a message in which he claimed to have cancer, which was not true.

Symonds told the jury there had never been any sexual activity but could not explain the Facebook messages. He was found guilty in just 30 minutes.

Depraved churchgoer guilty of raping child

A churchgoer has been told he faces years in jail for raping a 12-year-old girl.

Ian Symonds, 40, forced the girl to have sex with him when he was aged in his early 30s.

He then sent her sexually explicit messages in which he said God had told him his behaviour was justified and citing Biblical references to Mary and Joseph having an age gap.

Symonds, of Douglas Road, Plymouth, stood trial in Exeter accused of grooming, manipulating and abusing the girl.

He denied two allegations of rape and six other serious sexual offences against a child under 16 but was found guilty by the jury on Thursday [January 13].

Prosecutor Mr Peter Coombe said Symonds raped the girl in the car park of a pub in Torbay when she was 12 and he was 30.

Despite repeatedly saying ‘no’ he allegedly told her, ‘It is just what adults do’.

She later described the experience as ‘horrible’.

He also ‘turned nasty’ and threatened her with a knife before one rape.

The offences came to light several years later. Symonds was arrested in 2019. He said the offences never happened.

Judge Timothy Rose remanded Symonds in custody until the sentencing next week.

He said: “In light of that verdict, and all in court could see how swift that was, you’re now facing a very long prison sentence. I don’t know what the calculation will be yet.”

Symonds will be sentenced on January 20.