Sex attack accused was known as ‘Judy Garland’

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

Five men accused of sexually assaulting boys each told police they only had sexual relations with men.

A jury at Teesside Crown Court was read interviews with the men who were arrested after the sexual abuse inquiry into Hartlepool undertaker Gerald Martin widened to include others.

Peter Watts told officers he was known as Judy Garland on the gay scene in Hartlepool, which centred around public toilets in Burn Valley Gardens.

He said: “I went to the toilets for casual sex with men in their thirties, forties, and fifties.

“My preference was for butch men, child sex abuse disgusts me, and I’m disgusted to be accused of it.”

Joseph Brown said he was married with three sons, but was secretly bisexual.

“I had sexual encounters with older men,” he said. “Never young men, and certainly not boys.”

Alan Edmenson told police he was married in 1977, and began having sexual encounters with men after his divorce in 1982.

The former Northern League football referee said: “I would go to the Burn Valley toilets to look for men between about 30 and 65.

“One of the ways of making contact was to sit in a cubicle and tap your feet, it was a sort of code that you were looking for an encounter.”

Geoff Hillier, a bus driver, said: “I am not interested in young boys, I had around 20 encounters with friends, some of them are dead now.”

Robert Black told police he was bisexual, and last visited the Burn Valley toilets in 1972 when he was arrested for importuning for an immoral purpose.

“I didn’t go after that,” he said. “I used to go to gay-friendly bars in Middlesbrough.”

Black conceded he had two sexual encounters with one of his alleged victims when the victim was in his 20s.

He admitted knowing his other alleged victim, but told police there had been no sexual contact between them.

The five men deny a total of 17 allegations of abuse against three alleged victims.

Black, 71, of Derwent Grange, Hartlepool, denies five charges of indecent assault, and one 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.

The trial is expected to last for another two weeks.

Proceeding.