Preston Harris Children's Home trial: rape charge dropped against Wesham pensioner over "date uncertainty"

A rape charge has been dropped against a former children's home worker due to uncertainty about the date of the allegation.
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Frederick Wilding, 81, of Windmill View, Wesham, is accused of abusing three children while living at Preston's Harris Children's Home, where his wife Kathleen worked.

The couple had been houseparents there in the 1970s.

The first woman, who has since died, had claimed he raped her when she was aged 14, but the court has since been told that date enquiries show Wilding only moved to the property after she had turned 14.

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Judge Simon Medland QC, presiding over the trial, told jurors he was ordered the charge be dismissed as further enquiries could not be made due to her passing away in February.

He explained the jury could have potentially reached three scenarios - that it didn't happen, that someone else committed the rape or that she was mixed up about the dates.

He added: "I'm uncomfortable leaving that to you for this reason - although a jury does not have to be sure of precise dates when an offence was committed, the jury does have to be sure that it happened during the span of dates.

"Because we can't investigate any further because she is dead, the proper course is to withdraw count 1.

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"The real issue in this trial is whether any one of these events happened.

"As a matter of legal neatness I'm not happy to leave count 1 to you."

Wilding continues to be on trial for seven other charges of rape and indecent assault.

Jurors are expected to retire soon


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