July 2016

Torrington ex-soldier guilty of raping girl, 7


A former soldier is facing years behind bars after he was convicted of grooming and raping a seven-year-old North Devon girl.

Handyman Stuart Hendry, from Torrington, gave the girl toys, sweets and chocolates when he visited her home in North Devon but after winning her trust he abused her when they were alone in the upstairs room of a garage.

He was found guilty by a jury at Exeter Crown Court when they rejected his extraordinary defence that the child had bullied and blackmailed him into giving her impromptu sex education lessons.

He is a bisexual former soldier with the Royal Corps of Transport who told the girl’s parents he was gay to hide his interest in their daughter.

The girl’s family sobbed with relief in the public gallery and one shouted ‘Yes’ as the jury delivered their verdicts.

Judge Graham Cottle adjourned sentence until Tuesday and remanded Hendry into custody.

Hendry, 59, of South Street, Torrington, denied but was convicted of three counts of rape, one of assault by penetration, three of sexual assault, one of engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child, and two of inciting a child to take part in sexual activity.

During a week-long trial the jury heard how all the offences took place during six months last year when the girl became friendly with Hendry.

He groomed her by making hand-crafted toys and always brought sweets and chocolate when he visited the house. He persuaded her to go with him to an upstairs room in the detached garage building where he started touching her.

The activity progressed to a point where his assaults amounted to rape and only stopped when the girl’s grandmother became suspicious after seeing the girl sitting on his knee with her arms around his shoulders.

The grandmother gradually won the girl’s trust and she confided in her what had been going on. When the police were called they found Hendry’s DNA on the girl’s pyjamas.

A forensic expert testified there must have been a large amount of semen on the pyjamas because it was still detectable even after they had been washed.

Hendry admitted using a legal high and a tea made out of opium poppies but insisted his memory and judgment had not been impaired.

He claimed the girl had initiated all the sexual activity, which he said had never got as far as penetration.

Hendry said he told her to stop but she had threatened to scream if he did not comply and he had gone along with her desire to learn about sex.

He said: “She said she wanted to know how a boy and a girl do it. I said I would show her how the body functions. It was going through my mind this was some form of blackmail from a child.

“I am not a paedophile. I am not sexually interested in children. I had no sexual intention. I was just showing her. I did not groom her. That is the wrong word entirely and I quite resent it. It is not what I did.”