TV’s Fred Talbot guilty of sex assaults on schoolboys

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TV weatherman Fred Talbot has been found guilty of indecently assaulting two schoolboys when he was a teacher.

Talbot, 65, a regular on the floating weather map in Liverpool’s Albert Dock for ITV’s top-rating This Morning show, was said by the prosecution to be “a chancer” who used his “boundless energy” and “extrovert personality” to gain the affection and trust of his victims.

Fred Talbot has been convicted by a jury at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court of indecently assaulting two teenage boys.

Fred Talbot has been convicted by a jury at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court of indecently assaulting two teenage boys.

The jury at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court cleared him of assaulting three boys but found him guilty of assaults on two boys.

Talbot was said to have been “obsessed” with teenage boys throughout his teaching career and “could not help himself” around them when under the influence of drink.

Talbot was remanded in custody and to be sentenced on March 13.

Judge Timothy Mort said he did not require pre-sentencing reports but told Talbot his sentence should start today bearing in mind his “abuse of trust”.

Talbot was passive as the foreman read out the verdicts. He looked slightly surprised as he was told he was to be remanded in custody and nodded to the jurors before he left the dock.

Among the prosecution witnesses at the trial were The Stone Roses singer Ian Brown who said Talbot gave masturbation practice as homework.

Brown said he remembered two or three biology lessons given by Talbot when he was an 11-year-old boy.

The witness said: “Very early at school, I would not have been there a long time, Mr Talbot asked all the class if any of us had ever masturbated.

“He went on to explain how to masturbate, how you should masturbate and the following lesson he asked who had masturbated.”

Brown said Talbot also showed a gay porn film in another class.

Prosecutor Neil Usher put it to the defendant that he was “a weak man who regularly drank too much”.

This led to him being tempted by boys in his care and regularly trying it on with them, he said.

Mr Usher said Talbot’s modus operandi was to first establish his “good guy credentials” and then to break down the proper teacher-pupil boundaries, leaving his victims confused as made his advances.

Four of the complainants were teenage pupils at Altrincham Grammar School for Boys, where Talbot taught biology, while the other attended a high school in Gateshead when the defendant was at teacher training college.

The science teacher denied anything sexual or even inappropriate occurred between himself and the Altrincham pupils, while he said sexual activity with the Gateshead complainant only happened when the boy turned 16.

The court heard that Talbot’s teaching career came to “an abrupt end” in May 1984 following an indecent proposal he made to two pupils at his home.

He offered his bed for the night to the 15-year-old boys and said to them: “Make sure you leave room for me in the middle”.

Talbot kept quiet about why he resigned from Altrincham Grammar as his television career took off.

Talbot, of Bowdon, Greater Manchester, was convicted of two counts of indecent assault in relation to two complainants and cleared of eight counts of indecent assault in relation to three other complainants.

Following the verdicts, it can be reported that a number of similar complaints against Talbot about offences said to have been committed in Scotland have been passed by police to the Procurator Fiscal.

Greater Manchester Police Detective Constable Chris Doggart said: “Talbot was an extremely popular and well liked individual - both as a celebrity weatherman and formerly as a science teacher - who earned not only the trust and adulation of many of his peers and pupils, but also much of the nation.

“Now he has been exposed as an opportunistic sex offender and that reputation is rightly in tatters.

“Even when he was not committing offences against the two vulnerable young boys, his behaviour was wholly inappropriate and so far removed from his duty as a teacher to nurture and safeguard those under his care it really does defy belief.”

Both of Talbot’s victims were assaulted on school canal barge trips in the Cheshire area in the mid 1970s.

The first victim, who thought he was 14 at the time, said Talbot abused him after he was told to share a bed with him.

It emerged that he had previously reported the weatherman to police on four separate occasions dating back to 1992 but no action had been taken.

He said he was “quite drunk” after Talbot brought some beers back from the pub and then was told to join in on a mock naked orgy involving up to 10 boys and Talbot, which was photographed.

He told the jury of nine women and three men that one boy would lay on top of another who pretended to be a girl.

Following the “orgy” he said Talbot told him to sleep with him in a makeshift double bed in a partitoned area as there were not enough bunk beds to go round.

Talbot then performed a sex act on him.

He said: “He said this is natural and this is how men touch other men, because I didn’t know what was going on.”

The following morning he said that Talbot told him to never speak about the incident or of the “orgy” which would be their “secret”.

The second victim was abused on another barge trip in similar circumstances.

He said that boys would take turns to sleep in Talbot’s bed during the trip and when it was his turn the defendant “started talking to me about sexual stuff”.

Talbot then began to indecently assault him and the schoolboy told him to stop, the court was told.

The complainant - who thought he may have been aged 14 at the time - said the defendant persisted and he kept pulling Talbot’s hand away.

He said: “I was a very naive child and I couldn’t really understand it.”

The complainant said when he was aged in his late 20s he wrote to ITV Granada to tell them Talbot had abused him.

He said: “I wrote an anonymous letter to Granada Reports but obviously they could not act on it.

“It was just to say that I had been sexually assaulted on an occasion by this man. I think I was a bit angry at the time.”

Talbot was cleared over allegations he indecently assaulted a 15-year-old Gateshead schoolboy he met while at teacher training college.

The weatherman claimed consensual sexual activity between the pair only began after his 16th birthday.

Talbot was also acquitted over charges he indecently assaulted two 16-year-old Altrincham Grammar pupils at his home.

In a statement, Altrincham Grammar School for Boys said: “These awful events took place over 30 years ago and naturally our thoughts go out to those former pupils who were subjected to this abuse.

“We are confident that our present pupils and their parents know that the school is totally committed to ensuring the safety of our students and staff at all times and that these historic offences have no bearing on the school’s outstanding reputation today.”

Lesley Daniels, divisional manager for the charity Victim Support in Greater Manchester, said: “Talbot’s conviction is testament to the bravery of the men who came forward to give evidence against him in court - this can be extremely stressful especially in a high profile trial like this.

“As a charity which supported many of the witnesses involved in this trial and thousands of victims of sexual assault every year we know that this type of crime can have a long-lasting, devastating impact on people’s lives. It’s vital people are aware of the support that’s out there.

“Victim Support’s specially trained staff and volunteers offer practical help and emotional support no matter when a crime took place or if the police are involved. To get in touch, you can call our Supportline team on 08 08 16 89 111 or self-refer through our website by visiting victimsupport.org.uk”

Speaking about Talbot outside court, Mr Doggart said: “The very traits that endeared him to the nation - his energy, enthusiasm and personality - had earlier helped him gain the trust of his pupils and, ultimately, his victims.

“Often fuelled by drink he seized upon opportunities that he had orchestrated to indecently assault young boys, boys who he gambled would find it impossible to speak out and tell others what he had done.

“Well... one boy did speak out, and then another.

“Even when he was not committing offences against isolated, young and vulnerable young boys, his behaviour - both at school and in particular on trips - was wholly inappropriate.

“As a teacher he had a responsibility to nurture and safeguard those under his care, a responsibility he has proven to have had no regard for and that he abused in an appalling way.

“He has accepted no responsibility for his crimes and forced his victims to relive their ordeal in open court, decades after it happened.

“I hope they find some comfort and closure today knowing that their bravery has seen justice finally served.”

Mr Doggart thanked the victims for their bravery and said the force takes all reports of sexual abuse “extremely seriously”.

Talbot was also questioned by Greater Manchester Police about an alleged serious sexual assault committed on a former pupil but the matter was withdrawn after the complainant died.

Edinburgh-born Talbot moved at the age of seven to Sale, Greater Manchester, and later studied A-levels at Sale Grammar School.

After a spell at teacher training college in the Newcastle area he joined Altrincham Grammar School in 1974.

He resigned in disgrace in 1984 over indecent comments made to two 15-year-old pupils and shortly after went into television, with one of his first jobs on a Saturday morning children’s show.

The investigation was triggered in December 2012 following publicity into a separate historic abuse inquiry at another Altrincham school, St Ambrose College, which led to a nine-year jail term for ex-teacher Alan Morris.

Nazir Afzal, Chief Crown Prosecutor for the CPS North West Area, said: “As a teacher, Fred Talbot was in a position of trust and responsibility. Parents and pupils saw him as a popular, likeable teacher who was willing to give up his time to take children away on school trips.

“In fact he used those situations as opportunities to sexually assault two teenage boys who should have been safe in his care. The offences he committed were a gross betrayal of the trust placed in him.

“The victims, and other witnesses in the case, have shown real courage and resolve in reporting what happened to the police and giving evidence during this trial. Because of their courage Fred Talbot has today been brought to justice for these crimes.

“I hope that these verdicts will help them in some way and I hope they will give other victims of sexual abuse the confidence to come forward knowing that they will be taken seriously and treated with sensitivity.”