April 2021

Paedophile handyman fled child abuse trial before being jailed

A former Torquay hotel handyman has been jailed for a series of sex offences against children dating back four decades.

Maurice Button, 69, disappeared half way through his trial at Exeter Crown Court for offences against two girls who were aged just eight and 12 at the time.

But the paedophile gave himself up over the weekend and was found guilty by a jury.

During his sentencing one of his victims fought back tears when describing the devastating effect his abuse had on her. She said after years of trying to lock away her experiences in the back of her mind she had found the courage to speak out.

She told Button: “I tried to forget over the years. I boxed you up and put you to the back of my head and threw away the key.” She added: “I will go today knowing I fought my demons and won with the support of family, friends and the police.”

Button was found guilty of seven offences and was jailed for 13 years by Judge David Evans. He must also serve a further year on extended licence.

The trial was told six of the offences were committed against the older of the two girls.

Button groomed the child over a two-week period, showering her with praise and telling her how special she was. He repeatedly indecently assaulted and had unlawful sexual intercourse with a child under 13.

The abuser gained his victims’ trust with his outgoing and ‘fun’ personality. In reality he was a predatory paedophile.

In her statement to the court the victim said: “Your type think you have done no wrong. You singled me out then you started to fulfil your sick desires, to sexually abuse me and rape me. You ruined my path of life.”

She said for many years she was still too traumatised to think about what had happened in her past.

She considered suicide as the final throw of the dice to rid herself of the memories. But since coming forward with the truth everyone in her family was proud of her for the courage she had displayed bringing Button to justice.

“You are the one who has brought shame and disgust,” she told him. “Your picture will be in the local paper showing the sick and perverted paedophile you are.”

Button’s other victim said she had also fought to suppress in her mind what had happened to her. Aged just eight, Button had committed an act of gross indecency.

The defendant has a number of previous convictions. In 1995 he was jailed for six months for indecently assaulting a child.

Ms Virginia Cornwall, defending, said since then Button had not offended and had been happily married for 20 years. She said he now suffered with diabetes and prison would be difficult.

Button, of Dandelion Close, Newton Abbot, told police the offences never happened.

On Wednesday of last week he was due to give evidence in his trial but instead left the court at lunchtime, changed his clothes and drove away. Police issued an appeal for the missing man saying he had last been seen getting off a bus in Sidmouth High Street at around 2.45pm.

Despite some delays the trial continued in his absence and he gave himself up over the weekend.

“Perhaps that was always due to happen given you had little to eat and nowhere to go,” said Judge Evans.

He added: “You were avoiding overwhelming evidence against you in this trial. It was a deliberate attempt to evade or delay justice.” He sentenced Button to six months for absconding. That sentence must be served before the 13 years can begin.

The judge said: “The truth was you are a paedophile and you had a sexual interest in young girls. You used your position as an adult with a reputation for being gregarious and friendly and fun as the means by which to trick the first victim when she was just eight years old.”

He said that offence happened when the defendant was 28. He then went on to commit the even more serious offences against the older child.

“You were doubtless reasonably confident that neither girl would feel able to raise the alarm given their ages.”

He said the consequences of Button’s offending had ‘cascaded down the years’ and left a deep trauma for the victims.

The court was told the sentences available to the court in 2021 would be more severe than they were under 1980 laws. Judge Evans said he had to take that into consideration when reaching the total sentence.

Button must serve at least half of his 13 years in prison. He will then be considered by the parole board for release. Once the 13-year term is complete he will be subject to a further year on licence.