June 2010

Pervert preacher is jailed ‘for life’

A PREDATORY paedophile who used his post as a Methodist lay preacher in Darlington to target young boys has been jailed indefinitely for public protection.

US national Keith Morton committed bizarre acts of sexual abuse, dressing one of the boys in women’s clothes and taking photos of another naked youngster, Stafford Crown Court heard.

Another victim tried to commit suicide by slashing his wrists after sleeping in a set of drawers to try to escape Morton’s clutches.

Over a period of about nine years, Morton abused four teenage boys – three of them in Staffordshire and one in County Durham – after he moved from Lichfield to a church in Darlington.

But wherever he went, he targeted the church’s youth groups.

The preacher’s “charm, social skills and the confidence people had in him because of his position in the church” enabled him to “groom children so they would do his bidding,” said Judge Mark Eades.

Morton, 43, previously of Elm Ridge Church, Carmel Road, Darlington, was sentenced to a minimum of four years behind bars before he can apply for parole, but he will only be released when the Parole Board consider he is no longer a threat.

“As your counsel observe, this is, in effect, a life sentence,”

Judge Eades told him.

“On any basis, you are a persistent, implacable, predatory paedophile. You have been able to carry on as long as you have because you are educated and have good social skills.

Holding important positions within the Methodist church, you were trusted and welcomed into people’s homes and trusted with children.

“You used those skills with determination to come in to contact with pubescent boys, with a view to having sexual relationships with them. You pretended you were in love with them and this was some sort of loving relationship. It was nothing of the sort, it was you as an adult, using your position of prestige to have your way with them, damaging them for many years.”

Last November, Morton pleaded guilty to a total of ten offences involving two boys, one aged 12, the other 13, between 2002 and 2004, committed in the Tamworth and Lichfield Methodist district and at his former home in the area.

In April, he admitted a further eight charges involving a 14-year-old from the North- East and a 15-year-old from Lichfield.

They included two charges of taking indecent photographs of the 14-year-old and three of sexual activity with him. In addition, Morton admitted two charges of indecent assault on the 15-year-old and one of gross indecency with him, committed in 2001.

Morton’s reign of abuse came to an end when one of the boys told police that after the preacher became responsible for youth activities at a church in the Lichfield area, he started cuddling him.

It progressed to Morton stripping him naked and dressing him up in women’s clothes. For his 14th birthday, he bought him silicon breasts and a blond wig.

The defendant also tied him to a bed and blindfolded him.

Morton committed acts of gross sexual indecency with him, said Antonie Muller, prosecuting.

Morton was dismissed by the church group when someone saw him touching the boy, but he still kept up the perverted relationship with him.

Morton warned the boy not to tell anyone because he would lose his job and go to prison.

The publicity from that case saw other complainants step forward. Another Staffordshire boy described Morton committing a sexual act with him.

A 15-year-old from the area said he would wake up to find Morton touching him.

This boy tried to kill himself.

“I got a knife and hacked away at my wrists,” he told police. “I had the feeling I could not get away from him.

I swear to God, if I had known he had done this to others, I would have killed him.”

The boy said Morton should be sent to Texas “to get the death penalty”.

In the North-East, Morton befriended another teenage boy. They met while working on a website and on a trip to the cinema placed his hand on the boy’s leg. The boy initially resisted Morton’s advances, but the preacher regained his trust and on a trip Morton performed oral sex on him. The boy said he felt “sick”.

The boy said: “I was too embarrassed to say something, I just let it happen.

“Everything just felt so wrong. He told me he loved me and encouraged me to say it back.”

When he was made aware that Morton had taken pictures of him naked, the boy said: “He manipulates and uses us for his own pleasure.”

Stefan Kolodynski, defending, said: “He recognises what he has done is wicked.

“In terms, this will be a life sentence. He knows his victims will know that he has been punished appropriately.”