May 2022

Salvation Army paedophile park keeper took boy from playground and sexually abused him in a wooden hut

A paedophile who abused a young boy in a park 50 years ago has finally been brought to justice.

Park keeper Raymond Bennett, who is now 72, was dressed in his Salvation Army uniform, took the boy to a wooden hut, where he sat him on his knee, showed him a pornographic magazine and sexually abused him.

The five-year-old child had lost sight of his brothers whilst playing at North Lodge Park in Darlington, thought the man in uniform was a police officer who would help him.

The boy – now a man in his 50s – told Teesside Crown Court that he was terrified and too ashamed to tell his family what had happened when he got home.

On Thursday, Bennett, who arrived at court using two walking sticks and who the court heard suffers from dementia, was jailed for three-and-a-half years.

Prosecutor Andrew Turton said that the victim was shopping in Darlington with his wife, in 2019, when he, “turned pale and said he had to go home” suddenly. Mr Turton said that he had heard a brass band play and it had brought back painful memories of what Bennett had done to him.

He later told his wife what had happened, and said that he was too afraid to tell his parents about it at the time, because he thought his dad would beat him and his brothers. The victim reported Bennett to the police

The court heard that the victim managed to run out of the wooden hut when another man came in and asked what was going on. He saw the park bandstand and managed to make his way home from there

But Mr Turton said that the abuse had terrified the boy and had a massive impact on his life: it had affected his relationship with his brothers, because he blamed them for leaving him alone in the park. The man had suffered from panic attacks for years, and, “lived with anger, fear and self-loathing. He had been in trouble at school and throughout his life and sought psychiatric help.”

Mr Turton said that Bennett was working as a park keeper for Darlington Council at the time, and so had access to the hut.

Bennett, of Daryngton Close in Darlington denied sexually abusing the boy, but was unanimously convicted by a jury after a trial in March.

Jailing Bennett, Judge Andrew Dallas told him, ” In the mid 1970’s you were an active member of The Salvation Army and you had a part time job for the parks department at Darlington Council. This gave you access to a large hut in North Lodge Park.

“Somehow the boy got separated from his brothers, and when he merged from undergrowth, he saw you. You were wearing Salvation Army uniform at the time and you appeared to be a figure of authority – possibly a police man, he thought.

“You took the opportunity to target this young boy who was lost and highly vulnerable. I am satisfied that you touched him for a significant period of time. He ran off petrified and crying and found his way home.

“He saw you three weeks later when you went past his house in a Salvation Army van. The affect this has had on him has been profound and long lasting. It is perhaps significant that it was many years later, that he was able to pick you out in a police identification procedure.

“There is an element of abduction to this – you took him from a public space to a private place, you deliberately isolated him. I take into account your poor health but you have failed to show any remorse for your actions, you have fought this all the way.”