Exmouth: Man tells jury ‘I just froze’, accusing former mayor John Humphreys of sex abuse

A man accusing former Exmouth mayor John Humphreys of sexually assaulting him as a teenager while he was on school work experience told a jury he ‘just froze’ when abused.

Becca Gliddon eastdevonnews.co.uk 

Humphreys, aged 59, of Hartley Road, Exmouth, is on trial at Exeter Crown Court accused of historic sex offences against two underage boys.

He denies ten charges against him, alleged to have taken place between 1990 and 2002.

The court heard Humphreys denied ever having any sexual activity with either of the boys.

The male – now an adult – in court on Thursday, August 11, said he ‘froze’ when as a teenage boy Humphreys allegedly took him to his flat during his work experience lunch break, put porn on the television, and touched him sexually.

He told the court ‘some months later’ he had oral sex with Humphreys while working for him full-time, and described another instance of sexual touching and masturbation.

He said the sexual abuse only stopped when they were ‘disturbed’ by other workmen at Humphreys’ gardening firm returning to the property to collect tools.

The male told police: “He put the telly on and there was porn on the telly. He unzipped my trousers and started touching me and making comments. I just froze.”

He added: “Most of the time it would be disturbed by the other guys coming back to get tools. Other times it seemed to last for hours.”

He told police he felt like Humphreys was in control of the situation, leaving him feeling ‘trapped’.

The male said: “There was no escape really. I couldn’t tell anyone or do anything about it. I had to keep going back [to work].”

The court heard he ‘felt sick’ and ‘just wanted to leave’.

“It was control, mental control,” he said. “Because you are a child you look up to adults. I was taught to respect adults, no matter what.”

He added: “I felt pressured to go back. I felt if I told anyone, people wouldn’t believe me anyway.”

The male, who said he was not attracted to men, said: “I didn’t know whether it was right or wrong, the things that had been done to me, I didn’t know if it changed me as a person.”

The court heard the male’s mother ‘dragged’ him to a police station in 2003, to report Humphreys for allegedly touching him sexually during his work experience fortnight, and again over the summer holidays while he continued working for the defendant.

The male gave police a written statement in 2004, but Humphreys was not charged.

In 2015 the male was approached by police to give a video statement, which he made in 2016.

That time he added fresh information, alleging Humphreys also engaged him in oral sex.

Under cross-examination, the male said he failed to tell police earlier about the oral sex allegation because his mum was in the interview room.

But his mother told the court she had waited outside the interview room when her son first spoke to police.

The male told the jury: “I was embarrassed about what people would think of me, being a straight person. It’s confusing.”

Defence barrister Fiona Elder told the jury the male continued to opt to work for Humphreys after his work experience placement ended, returning to take a summer job, and then onto additional employment with the landscape gardening firm when the school term restarted.

He accepted Humphreys’ help and money to enroll him at an agricultural college to gain a professional qualification, the jury heard.

And the male went back to work for Humphreys again in the summer of 2002, after dropping out of agricultural college, the court was told.

Ms Elder said: “When he [Humphreys] was involved in your life he was kind to you, encouraged you and gave you opportunity with your work.”

The male said: “I felt controlled and like I had to go back. I think I was a bit scared of him.”

The male told the court he had ‘no reason to lie’.

The man’s mother told the court she took her son to the police because he confided he had been abused when she found him ‘paralytic’ drunk after smashing up his flat in 2003.

She told the jury: “He was absolutely paralytic. I was very concerned. I got him into the car to try and find out what had gone wrong and why he had done what he had done.

“He broke down in tears. I was at the end of my tether with him. He walked around like he was under a cloud all the time. That wasn’t the person we knew. He was going off the rails and was drinking quite heavily.

“He said ‘you won’t believe me’.

“He said ‘I have been abused’. He sat on the car seat and was in a ball, just absolutely sobbing.

“I hugged him and held him close. I asked him who did this and he told me it was John Humphreys, of which I replied ‘we are going to the police’.”

Humphreys has denied two charges of indecent assault and three counts of a sex assault on a boy aged 12 to 13, between 1990 and 1991.

He has also pleaded not guilty to five further counts of indecent assault of a second boy aged 14 to 15 between 1999 and 2002.

The trial continues.