October 2009

Weymouth bed and breakfast rapist jailed

A MAN has been jailed for 10 years after kidnapping an 11-year-old girl and raping her in a Weymouth bed and breakfast.

Matthew Palmer, 40, of Bridgwater in Somerset, was jailed at Taunton Crown Court after admitting the rape of a child, abduction and sexual assault.

Father-of-two Palmer was caught after taking the girl to the Charlotte Guest House in Commercial Road last August.

The court was told how he attacked the girl before abandoning her at the guesthouse and heading home to try and cover his tracks.

Judge Graham Hume Jones described Palmer as a ‘substantial risk to the public’ when he sentenced him.

The husband and wife running the guesthouse in the town centre told how Palmer had arrived at around 8am and asked for a room for ‘him and his daughter’.

Martin and Rattana Groves said that there was nothing that led them to become suspicious until they realised Palmer had left the bed and breakfast at some point in the morning and the girl had been on her own all day.

Mr Groves, who manages the guesthouse with his wife, was on his way out when he saw Palmer leave the building alone at around 11am, but thought ‘nothing of it’ and assumed he would be going to the shops and returning shortly.

But he said he knew ‘something wasn’t right’ when he arrived back in the afternoon and found out from his wife that Palmer still hadn’t returned.

The police later told the couple that Palmer hadn’t returned because the police in Bridgwater had already found him at his family home.

The court was told that police investigating the case were at Palmer’s home when he arrived, and that he broke down under interview.

He could not name the premises where he had left the girl, the court was told, but from his description police were able to identify it and rescue the child.

Mr Groves said: “Just as I was going to check on the girl, I heard someone banging on the door and found what seemed like half of Weymouth police force outside.

“They asked if there was a girl and a man here and if I could show them to the room where they were staying.

“When they found the girl she was taken by the police and the room was turned upside down.

“They stripped all the beds, took all the towels and began examining it. At this point, I put two and two together.

“Nothing seemed odd about the girl and she seemed like a happy, normal kid.

Mrs Groves added: “She wasn’t a girl who looked older than her age.

“She was skinny and very small, wearing a pink outfit with a cartoon on her T-shirt.

“I didn’t think anything of it before because the girl was so young and I had no reason to question that it was his daughter.”

Palmer was sentenced to 18 years but will be released after 10 years and will then be under supervision.

If he offends again he could serve the full sentence and he will remain on the sex offenders’ register for life.

Mr Groves said: “The girl seemed perfectly happy but he had clearly fostered the whole thing.

“I suppose if a man and a young girl come in now I will always have this at the back of my mind, but you can’t think like that about everyone.

“If it had been me doing the sentencing he would never come out of prison.

“They should have locked him up and thrown away the key.”

Geoffrey Mercer, in mitigation, said that Palmer was a man of ‘limited intellectual ability’ and for whom it took ‘considerable courage’ to admit his crimes.