Preston Harris Children's Home house father Fred Wilding from Wesham guilty of rapes and indecent assaults

A former housefather at  Preston’s Harris Children’s Home has been found guilty of four counts of rape and three of indecent assault against three girls.
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Jurors convicted Frederick Wilding, 78, of Windmill View, Wesham, Preston, faces seven charges of raping and indecently assaulting three children.

The pensioner had lived at the Lancashire County Council led home on Garstang Road with his late wife Kathleen, who was employed as a house mother at the home in the 1970s, and their two daughters.

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During his trial, Preston Crown Court heard the first woman made abuse allegations against him in August 2000 but it was filed away and only resurrected when other allegations came to light regarding the home.

Harris HomeHarris Home
Harris Home

Tragically the woman died in February ahead of the trial.

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.

The second victim, who gave evidence in person, confirmed she made a complaint statement in 2016 when she was spoken to about another 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.

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A third woman said Wilding raped her as a child, pushing her onto the floor while she was wearing her nightie.

Judge Simon Medland QC thanked jurors for their care and attention to the case and adjourned the sentencing for a pre sentence report until November 9.

He did not remand him in custody due to his age and previous good character but granted bail with a curfew and ordered him to immediately sign on the Sex Offender's Register.

He said: " This is an act of mercy but the outcome of the sentencing process is inevitable. It will enable him to put his affairs in order."

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Wilding left the home in the early 1980s because his wife had been seriously ill.

He had worked as a care assistant at Croft House, Freckleton, at John Booth's foundry in Preston, at the Royal Preston Hospital as a porter for a decade, and at Sion House in Ribbleton as a care assistant for 15 years.

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.

It was calculated more than 2,200 children had been cared for within the grounds of the institution.

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Today a spokesman for LCC said: "It is important that cases such as this come before the courts so that victims are able to get justice no matter how long ago the offences may have happened.

"In recent years significant changes have been made to the way local authorities support children to ensure they are safeguarded at all times.

"We would urge anyone affected by this case to seek support from organisations like the NSPCC. It is never too late to report abuse."

*Anyone concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC Helpline, in confidence, on 0808 8005000.


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