Gas safety firm owner de­nies sex abuse of young­sters

Ormskirk Advertiser - - Front Page - BY NEIL DOCK­ING neil.dock­ing@trin­i­tymir­ror.com @Visiter

AWEST Lan­cashire busi­ness­man is fac­ing trial ac­cused of mo­lest­ing four girls and ex­pos­ing him­self to chil­dren walk­ing past his of­fice.

Robert Darby, 57, who lives in Scaris­brick, is al­leged to have abused the young­sters in the 1990s and 2000s.

Darby, who owns To­tal Gas Safety, in Ains­dale, South­port, is also ac­cused of ex­pos­ing him­self to three chil­dren, who went to look at a puppy in the win­dow of his of­fice in Se­gars Lane in 2015.

The mar­ried dad-ofthree, formerly of Liver­pool Road, South­port, is fur­ther al­leged to have down­loaded in­de­cent images of chil­dren.

Darby, of Dam Wood Lane, de­nies 14 sex­ual of­fences in a trial at Liver­pool Crown Court.

Ger­ald Baxter, pros­e­cut­ing, said the first com­plaint against Darby was made by a woman in Oc­to­ber, 2015.

She said that she vis­ited his home as a child and saw him sitting in a dress­ing gown with no un­der­wear on.

The woman said that on an­other oc­ca­sion he told her to come up­stairs and col­lect a “fart ma­chine” toy. But she found him ly­ing on his bed wear­ing only head­phones, with his eyes closed and per­form­ing a sex act.

On an­other oc­ca­sion, she said, she stayed at his house and he put her in his bed with his sleep­ing wife, Deb­bie, and pressed against her.

When ar­rested by po­lice, Darby said that noth­ing had ever hap­pened, but his wife may have in­vited the girl into their bed if she was dis­tressed.

A sec­ond woman told of­fi­cers that Darby had lifted up her nightie – so she was just in her un­der­wear – and made her lie across his lap.

She said that he tick­led and mas­saged her back, which “felt weird and un­com­fort­able”, but he was a per­sua­sive adult and she was just a child.

A third woman told po­lice that he made her take a bath in front of him, de­spite her protests and the in­ter­ven­tion of his wife.

A fourth said that Darby asked her to help him with hyp­no­tism and told her to come to his bed­room.

She re­called find­ing him naked, kneel­ing on the bed and per­form­ing a sex act, adding that he asked her to count down from 10 be­fore she left.

Darby de­nied all the al­le­ga­tions and said he could not think why the women would make them.

Mr Baxter said that a lit­tle girl walked past a glass door at To­tal Gas Safety and spot­ted a Labrador puppy in Fe­bru­ary, 2015.

She caught up with her friend’s mum and said she saw a man who had “pulled down his pants and undies”.

Two more lit­tle girls walked past and saw the puppy, be­fore also com­plain­ing that a man had ex­posed him­self to them.

Po­lice later viewed the shop’s CCTV footage, which showed Darby ar­riv­ing be­fore the chil­dren looked through the glass door.

When he was ar­rested for in­de­cent ex­po­sure, Darby said: “Ab­so­lutely not, I’m just in shock.”

He said that he had a spine op­er­a­tion and strug­gled pass­ing water and had rolled up his trouser leg due to a cut to his knee, but de­nied pulling down his pants.

Darby was in­ter­viewed again af­ter the girls gave video in­ter­views to po­lice.

Mr Baxter said: “This time he said that he did re­move his trousers and un­der­pants be­cause the surgery to his spine made it dif­fi­cult to con­trol his blad­der and he had wet him­self.”

Darby was ar­rested and his lap­top seized, which was found to con­tain around 10 in­de­cent images.

He said that he knew noth­ing about them, stat­ing that his fam­ily of­ten up­loaded pho­tos and for­mer em­ploy­ees may have also ac­cessed it.

Mr Baxter said: “You will hear de­scrip­tions of the images. These are clearly not fam­ily or hol­i­day snaps.”

He said that the al­le­ga­tions made by seven chil­dren over a pe­riod of 25 years, plus the com­puter ev­i­dence, demon­strated “a pat­tern of be­hav­iour”, which was “namely his sex­ual in­ter­est in chil­dren”.

Mr Baxter said the jury may have to de­cide whether any of the peo­ple who went to the po­lice had been in­flu­enced by hear­ing about other com­plaints.

He said: “The pros­e­cu­tion say that is not the case, and that none of the com­plainants is in any­way jump­ing onto any band­wagon – they are sim­ply telling the truth.” The case is pro­ceed­ing. For up­dates, see www. Visiter.co.uk

Busi­ness­man Robert Darby de­nies abus­ing young­sters dur­ing the 1990s and 2000s

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