December 2020

‘Man cave’ abuser found guilty of raping child and indecent assault

A child rapist who abused two girls while they played computer games has been warned he faces a lengthy spell behind bars.

John Whelan, 64, groomed his two victims, who were both under 10 when the abuse started, by showing them pornography – telling one of the girls she would be “happy like the ladies in the videos”.

After more than eight hours of deliberations, jurors at Swindon Crown Court returned majority verdicts of guilty on nine charges, including one count of rape, indecency with a child and indecent assault.

Remanding Whelan into custody, Judge Jason Taylor QC said: “You have been rightly convicted in my view by the jury. It is inevitable you will receive a lengthy and significant custodial sentence. Your two victims deserve closure; that starts today. You can go down.”

Whelan, of Stamford Close, Toothill, will be sentenced on December 21.

During the trial last week, jurors heard how Whelan turned his abuse of the children into games, including instructing one seven-year-old girl to play hide and seek with his private parts after covering his genitals with a blanket.

The abuse was perpetrated from the mid-90s to mid-2000s.

The older girl claimed Whelan had occasionally babysat her while her mother was out at work – and she had also been looked after at his family home.

Jurors were told he had arrived to babysit her at her home with what he called “special films” – pornography that he would make her watch while she sat on his lap. He was said to have molested her; touching her sexually and getting her to touch him.

The touching continued at his own home, as they played video games in his “man cave”, although he would not expose himself at the house. Opening the case to the jury last week, prosecutor David Scutt said: “She said this: ‘It was our secret, it was our little game’ and that, no doubt was what he was telling her as that young girl.”

As she got older she had refused to take part in the “games”, she claimed. When her mum switched work shifts the girl no longer needed to be babysat by the man. On the occasions she went around to his house she stayed close to her mum, Mr Scutt said.

The older girl said she had noticed Whelan taking an interest in another younger girl. They would both be called upstairs to watch TV in his bedroom. On occasion he would be wearing a towel, she claimed.

The younger girl claimed Whelan had begun sexually abusing her when she was around seven. She said the man had shown her pornographic playing cards and websites.

He had been grooming her, Mr Scutt said. “He was getting her to look at it, this is to say the stuff on the computer, and what was described as his game; it was made into play for this young child. He would get her to look at videos, she said, and he told her what he wanted her to do.”

The girl claimed she had been made to touch him sexually and perform oral sex on him. On one occasion he raped her, she said. “[He said] he was going to make her happy like the ladies in the videos,” Mr Scutt said.

The abuse was reported to police in early 2019. In December the previous year, the younger woman had told her mother and father she had been raped by Whelan. Her brother was instrumental in persuading her to go to the police, jurors heard. The woman had told her then partner – later her husband – about the abuse.

The older woman came forward after being told by her mother that the younger complainant had gone to the police.

Interviewed by police last year, Whelan denied sexually assaulting the girls. He said the pornographic cards belonged to his late father.

During the trial, the jury was told that no one raised concerns about Whelan looking after the girls at the time. Other people had been inside the house at the time.

A family man, he had no previous convictions. At the time of the abuse he was working in the car industry.

In her closing speech to the jury, Whelan’s barrister Clare Evans said it was for the Crown to prove her client’s guilt – and not for the defendant to prove his innocence.

“What is he supposed to say: it didn’t happen? How’s he supposed to justify it didn’t happen?” she asked the jury.

“I’ve said it before, members of the jury, I’ll say it again; no one had any suspicions or issues with John Whelan looking after their children and the reason is because he did nothing to arouse suspicions.

“No one was suspicious of him, members of the jury, because nothing suspicious happened.”