Hartlepool funeral director faces jail after being found guilty of sex charges against boys

Guilty: Gerald Martin
Guilty: Gerald Martin

An undertaker is facing years in prison after he was convicted of sexually abusing five boys over more than 20 years.

Gerald Martin led a double life in Hartlepool as a committed church goer, Boys' Brigade leader, and respected businessman while at the same time haunting public toilets looking for boys to abuse, Teesside Crown Court heard.

Two of his victims told the court Martin was a regular visitor to toilets at Burn Valley Gardens and toilets known as the 'tin toilets' in the centre of Hartlepool.

"I would often see him," said one victim. "He was known as Miss Martin the Undertaker.

"There was a lot of homosexual activity in the toilets in those days, both amongst older men and men with boys.

"They used to call us young ones 'chicks' or 'chickens', the younger men were called 'aunties' and the older ones 'queens'.

Martin would either abuse the boys in the toilets or take them to his Mason and Martin funeral parlour in Park Road, Hartlepool or to other buildings in the town.

Prosecutor Peter Makepeace QC told the court the abuse took place in the 1970s to 1990s, but did not come to light until 2013.

"In April of that year one of the victims attended the accident and emergency department at North Tees Hospital,” said Mr Makepeace. “He said he was suicidal, and confided to a nurse he had been sexually abused as child by a man named Gerald from Hartlepool.

“The case was investigated, Mr Martin was charged and appeared before Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court.

“A report of that case, including a photograph, appeared in the Hartlepool Mail, which led to another victim coming forward.

“He told police he believed there was another lad who was abused.

“The other lad was traced and he told police he was abused in the Burn Valley Gardens toilets by a number of men.

"In total, five victims contacted or were contacted by the police."

Martin, who is married, denied all allegations against him, claiming at first he is not homosexual, but later conceding he is homosexual but is only interested in adult men.

The 66-year-old, of Valley Close, Hartlepool, was convicted of seven charges of indecent assault, three charges of committing a serious sexual offence, three charges of attempting to commit the same serious sexual offence, and one charge of false imprisonment.

Jamie Hill QC, defending, applied for bail pending sentence to give Martin the chance to put his affairs in order and to attend an appointment for an eye scan.

Judge Simon Phillips QC remanded Martin in custody.

The judge told him: "A custodial sentence of substantial length in terns of years is inevitable in this case.

"I consider a report prepared by the probation service will be of assistance to me in terms of length of sentence, and also in terms of assessing risk and assessing dangerousness."

Prosecutors will contact the victims to ask them if they want to make statements about the effect the abuse has had on them.

The statements will be read to the court at the sentencing hearing.

Martin will be sentenced on a date to be fixed next month.