Chance sighting led to sex abuse claim against funeral director

Gerald Martin outside of Hartlepool Magistrates Court
Gerald Martin outside of Hartlepool Magistrates Court

A chance sighting in Hartlepool town centre prompted one of the alleged victims of sexual abuse by an undertaker to come forward, a court heard.

The man told a jury at Teesside Crown Court he was abused twice by Gerald Martin as a child in the 1970s, but had not contacted police until 2014.

“I saw Martin leaving Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court,” he said. “I had been in the town to go to the Hartlepool Mail office to place a family announcement.

“As I walked to get a taxi, I stopped for a smoke on one of the benches outside the court. Martin came out, smartly dressed as usual, I thought he had been in there for an inquest or something like that. When I read in the paper later he had been charged with sexual abuse, something prompted me to contact the police to tell them what had happened to me.”

Jamie Hill QC, defending, put it to the alleged victim he had prior knowledge of Martin’s court appearance, and had gone to the court that day to follow the case.

“No,” the alleged victim replied. “It was a pure coincidence.”

The court was shown a copy of the Hartlepool Mail containing the family announcement, which the alleged victim said he had booked two days before publication which must have been the day of Martin’s court appearance.

Mr Hill put it to the alleged victim he and Martin had had consensual sex when both were adults.

“I did not,” replied the alleged victim. “I’ve not spoken to Martin or seen him at close quarters since he abused me. I did see him once coming out of what we called the tin toilets in the town centre, that was around 1997 or 1998.”

The jury heard earlier claims Martin abused the alleged victim when he was a boy in public toilets in Burn Valley Gardens, and a few weeks later in a flat in a large house in Park Road, Hartlepool.

On the second occasion, Martin is accused of attempting to carry out a serious sexual offence against the boy.

“I went with him the second time,” said the alleged victim. “I thought the same thing would happen as what happened in the toilets, but on that second occasion I got more than I bargained for.”

The court heard the alleged victim has identified the house in which the abuse took place.

“That house has been lived in by the same family since the 1960s” said Mr Hill. “It has never been converted to flats and has no apparent connection with Mr Martin.”

The alleged victim said he was fairly sure that was the house, or it may have been another in the block of about six or seven houses in which the house stands.

Martin, 66, of Valley Close, Hartlepool, denies 13 alleged sex offences and one charge of false imprisonment.