Two men accused of being part of a paedophile ring involving murdered “witch” Peter Solheim have been given lengthy jail sentences for their part in “ritualistic, sickening” sex abuse of young girls.
Jack Kemp, 69, and Peter Petrauske, 72, spent years tormenting their female victims, one said to be as young as three. Both men had denied any involvement in the abuse, claiming they were victims of a witch hunt or conspiracy.
But a jury at Truro Crown Court dismissed their protestations, convicting them of a string of offences dating back to the 1970s, as well as finding Kemp guilty of several more recent sexual assaults unconnected to Petrauske.
Jailing Kemp and Petrauske, Judge Graham Cottle said: “The offences range from the extremely serious to the truly horrifying.
“You are two of the surviving members of a paedophile ring, together with others whose names have repeated frequently in this trial who were members of a ring that operated in Falmouth, Cornwall, in the 1970s and 1980s.
“I’m satisfied that you have both had a life-long sexual interest in young, female children.
“[The trial] has featured ritualistic, sickening abuse of young, young children. The scars left on [two victims, who cannot be named for legal reasons] are so obvious it would seem extremely unlikely that either of them have any real prospect of recovery.
“Finally, the truth about your lies and your undoubted propensities has caught up with you.”
Petrauske was convicted of rape, aiding and abetting an attempted rape, and indecent assault.
Judge Cottle sentenced him to 18 years in prison.
Kemp was guilty of 10 sexual offences including indecent assault and indecency with a child, and was handed a 14-year prison term.
Both men were given a discount because of their age, the judge telling Petrauske he was likely to die in prison.
Petrauske was said to be the “high priest” of a witches’ coven in St Ives, Cornwall, and ordered the girls to carry out his sick fantasies. The court heard Kemp videoed the abuse, but also took part in assaults, along with friends Solheim and Stan Pirie – a notorious paedophile who died in jail following his conviction for sex abuse in the mid-2000s.
Their victims gave harrowing evidence from behind a screen during the three-week trial. They said they were then abused by their tormentors, before being given money and sweets to buy their silence.
The abuse was only investigated further by police last year when Kemp was arrested in connection with another incident, causing rumours to spread around his home town of Falmouth and prompting the victims of the historic offences to contact detectives.
When Petrauske was arrested last year, detectives discovered daggers, sheets, candles and a mask, the court heard. He immediately mentioned the names Kemp and – in a dramatic twist in the case – Solheim.
The latter was a 56-year-old parish councillor whose body was found five miles off the Lizard Peninsula, Cornwall, by fishermen on June 18, 2004. He had been drugged and mutilated.
His partner, Margaret James, was jailed for 20 years in July 2006 for plotting the brutal killing after becoming jealous when Solheim had an affair, although police are still searching for those who helped her.
But counsel for the defendants told the jury that Petrauske and Kemp played no part in the abuse.
Sean Brunton, defending Petrauske, compared his client with the victim of “a witch-hunt”.
“Don’t fall into the trap of thinking: ‘Who does he [Petrauske] think he is? He’s obviously a weirdo’,” Mr Brunton said.
“While those who don’t follow the crowd are criticised, it’s not yet illegal to be a weirdo.”
Jo Martin, for Kemp, said the case against him was one of “no smoke without fire”, after the jury had been told of his previous convictions for sexual offences several decades ago.
Kemp and Petrauske showed little emotion as Judge Cottle handed down the jail terms and told the pair: “You carried out appalling, indescribable offences against defenceless children.”