April 2021

Dad of four who raped boys in bathroom collapses in dock

A married man who raped two boys as a teenager collapsed in the dock when jailed today.

John Merritt, 60, of Leathers Lane, Halewood, denied sexually abusing the children more than four decades ago.

But at the age of 14 or 15, when going by the name Walter Merritt, he raped his victims in Belle Vale and Netherley.

Merritt offered chocolate to Boy A, before inviting him into his house and raping him in a bathroom and a nearby field.

He also raped Boy B in the bathroom, pouncing after his mum invited the disadvantaged little boy in for tea and cake.

Boy B described how the abuse “destroyed” his life and even landed him in jail, after he stole to buy drugs to block out the horror.

Liverpool Crown Court heard the now dad-of-four carried out the attacks in the 1970s.

Stephen McNally, prosecuting, said they came to light when Boy A made a formal complaint to the police in 2016.

He previously told his sister about the abuse 30 years earlier and also mentioned it in a letter to police in 2014, but hadn’t taken it further at that stage.

When interviewed, Boy A told police he believed it happened to others and mentioned Boy B, who was traced by officers and interviewed in 2018.

Mr McNally said Boy B wasn’t told who provided his name, but both men “independently provided accounts which bore a number of similarities”.

Boy A said Merritt passed him in the street, offered him chocolate and invited him into his home, before raping him in the bathroom. He said Merritt also raped him at another location and in a field in Netherley.

Boy B said he went to Merritt’s home because Merritt’s mum was nice to him and fed him, when times were hard in his family and he was “largely left to fend for himself”.

Mr McNally said: “He said that Mrs Merritt offered him tea, biscuits and cake, which he didn’t get at home.”

The court heard Merritt followed him into the bathroom, locked the door and raped him on two occasions.

Merritt was convicted of three counts of a sexual offence which would now be classed as rape after a trial in March.

In a victim statement, Boy A – who attended the sentencing – said the abuse “destroyed his life”.

Mr McNally said: “He describes how he turned to drugs because he ‘needed not to remember’.”

Boy A didn’t wish to make a victim statement, but in evidence described how the abuse affected his “personal relationships” and he also turned to drugs.

The trial heard Merritt was convicted of wounding aged 15 in 1976, when he threw a bike cog at a girl’s face, leading to him being put in care. His family later moved to Speke.

Mr McNally said in 1980 he was convicted of possessing a weapon, “a stick with a chain” when “part of a Teddy Boy outfit”.

Merritt was most recently convicted of a racially aggravated public order offence in 2015.

Recorder Harris jailed him for eight years, at which point Merritt collapsed, hitting a wooden rail as he fell.

When helped up by a dock officer, he claimed “I just fainted a bit”, then muttered: “It’s my back as well.”

He will serve at least six years in prison, before he is released on licence.

Merritt, who must sign the Sex Offenders Register for life, waved to his crying wife and adult son as he was sent down.