Man denies being part of Hartlepool sex abuse ring

The site of the former public toilets in Burn Valley Gardens at the junction of Stockton Road, Blakelock Road, Hartlepool. Picture by FRANK REID

The site of the former public toilets in Burn Valley Gardens at the junction of Stockton Road, Blakelock Road, Hartlepool. Picture by FRANK REID

A 71-year-old man who is on trial for sex offences with children denied he knows his co-defendants through a mutual interest in abusing boys.

Robert Black and four other men were charged after a police inquiry into Hartlepool undertaker Gerald Martin widened, a jury at Teesside Crown Court heard.

Martin was jailed last year for child sex offences, mostly committed at the Burn Valley Gardens toilets in Hartlepool.

“I know Gerald Martin from around the town,” said Black, “He was well-known in Hartlepool.

“I never saw him in the toilets.”

Under cross-examination by Peter Makepeace, QC, prosecuting, Black denied he knew his four co-defendants from the toilets.

Geoff Hillier, Alan Edmenson, Joseph Brown, and Peter Watts all deny child sex offences, saying they only took part in consensual sexual activity with adult males.

“They were visiting the toilets at the same time as you and for the same reason,” Mr Makepeace said to Black.. “But you never saw any of them there?”

“The first time I met Geoff Hillier was at court,” said Black. “I know Alan Edmonson from around the town, he worked at the bingo.

“Joseph Brown was a publican, I know him from the pubs, I never saw him in the toilets.

“I got to know Peter Watts around the town from walking my dogs.”

Black changed his plea to guilty of two of the six child sex offences he faces.

Mr Makepeace said Black had told police at least 20 times he had not had sexual activity with that victim, and had denied the offences in his defence statement which had been produced at the start of the trial.

“That was all lies,” said Mr Makepeace.

“It was bending the truth,” said Black, “I would go to the toilets once a month or maybe once a week, I used to pop in.

“With the victim I’ve admitted it was there in a plate, he wanted it.

“I didn’t know the other victim I’m accused of when he was young, I knew him when he was older.”

Black, 71, of Derwent Grange, Hartlepool, admits two charges of indecent assault.

He denies three charges of indecent assault, and he denies a serious sexual offence.

Hillier, 72, of Haswell Avenue, Hartlepool, denies two charges of indecent assault, and two serious sexual offences.

Edmenson, 66, of Ibrox Grove, Hartlepool, denies one charge of indecent assault.

Brown, 81, of Front Street, Hart, denies one charge of indecent assault.

Watts, 72, of Oxford Road, Hartlepool, denies five charges of indecent assault.

All of the offences are alleged to have taken place in the late 1970s and 1980s.

Proceeding.