Alleged rapist has dementia, court hears

Preston Crown Court
Preston Crown Court
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A court has made the unusual step of allowing the trial of a man accused of raping a girl to go ahead in his absence, due to his dementia.

William Altham, 84, is accused of a "nine year campaign of rape and sexual abuse" against a youngster dating back almost 40 years.

The pensioner, of Bleasdale Street East, Deepdale, Preston, Preston, was deemed not fit enough to attend the proceedings against him, but the court was permitted to use a video interview recorded in 2013 while he was still fit enough to give evidence about the allegations.

Altham is accused of five charges involving attacks against the Preston girl who was as young as seven.

The alleged victim, who is now grown up, gave evidence at his trial at Preston Crown Court.

She told jurors Altham told her she would not be believed.

In the 2013 interviews, played to jurors, Altham he initially denied abuse but later confirmed he used to "play a game" called Tommy Tickle Toe with her.

Summing up the prosecution evidence, Amanda Johnson said: "You may think him a cruel and manipulative man who abused those within his care.

"There are no witnesses as to precisely what went on. So you have the account of the complainant for your consideration.

"The crown say you can be sure she came here to tell the truth.

" What is not in doubt, you may feel, is that he was a very unpleasant man, with an unpredictable temper and an ability to be mean and cruel."

"You've not heard from the defendant and you have been denied the opportunity of seeing him and assessing him. The best evidence you have comes from witnesses who have described what he was like and from his own mouth in the course of police interviews payed to you.

"These proceedings are unusual and you may feel a sense of disquiet that you haven't heard from him, however you must consider the account of the complainant with care and come to a determination as to the facts."

Defending, Chris Hudson said Altham had given a " clear, cogent and complete denial" in interview and that they were "false allegations motivated by hatred and over financial gain".

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