Preston Harris Children's Home former worker from Wesham denies sexually abusing girls

A woman made abuse allegations against a pensioner who worked at Preston’s Harris Children’s Home but it was  "filed away" for 20 years, a court has heard.

Thursday, 2nd September 2021, 3:49 pm

Frederick Wilding, of Windmill View, Wesham, faces eight charges of raping and indecently assaulting three children in the 1970s and is on trial at Preston Crown Court.

Preston Crown Court heard the woman, who lived at the home with her siblings in the 1970s, made a statement in August 2000 but it was only resurrected when other allegations came to light regarding the home.

Tragically the woman died in February ahead of his trial.

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Former Preston children's home worker from Wesham denies abuse claims

Jurors were played a video of her filmed in July 2019 in a care home in which she confirms the contents of her statement to a police officer, who then reads it aloud on the footage on her behalf, due to her ill health at the time.

Barbara Webster, prosecuting, said the orphanage, which consisted of seven detached houses run by house parents, was opened in early November 1888 and in 1940 it was leased to Lancashire County Council.

There were usually 12 children in each house.

Wilding, 78, and his wife, Kath, used to be ‘house parents’ at the Lancashire County Council led home on Garstang Road, and had lived there with their two daughters, though it was only his wife who was actually employed there.

Miss Webster said when the first girl was 14, Wilding had told her to follow him upstairs after five minutes.

She added: " She didn't know why but she did as she was told."

In her statement the woman said: " I saw that there wasn't anybody about. I went into the girls bedroom. I saw that Fred came out of his bedrooms.

"I wondered why he wanted to see me and thought it might have been that our room was untidy.

"He took hold of my hands and pulled me onto the bed. I felt scared and had no idea what was going on.

"He told me not to say anything to anybody.

"I felt dirty."

The court heard after she left the home she had two failed marriages and that the trauma led to her attempting suicide.

She confided in her third husband about it after recognising Wilding outside a bookmakers.

The second alleged victim confirmed she made a complaint statement in 2016 when she was spoken to about a resident at the home, Christopher Hartley, who was tried for sexual offences.

She alleges she was indecently assaulted by Wilding aged 13, when she would get up early and do chores, and during the summer holidays when many children would return to their families during holidays.

Miss Webster said: " The defendant would take his opportunity to grab her bottom and move his hands.

"He indecently assaulted her while she was doing the ironing.

Giving evidence in person, the woman said: "I used to have to get up early some days. Mr Wilding was always downstairs already, sat there in the front room.

" I used to have to set the table sometimes and do some ironing and he was always touching me and hovering around me and touching my backside and saying how nice it was."

Asked how it made her feel she replied: " It's hard to describe really, it's like I couldn't say anything and had to just put up with it basically - that if I had have told anyone no one would have believed me because it would have been his word against mine."

Jurors are also due to hear from a third woman who alleges Wilding raped her twice after allowing her to watch TV with him.

Miss Webster said: " She had a diary and within that she wrote everything the defendant had done to her.

"Kath Wilding found the diary and confronted her about the content.

"She was moved out to another house near the front of the complex."

(proceeding)

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