Lowestoft shopkeeper denies sexual abuse

A LOWESTOFT shopkeeper acted like a 'latter day Pied Piper' by sexually abusing five teenage boys, a court heard this week.

Anthony Francis, who owned a shop in Maidstone Road, Lowestoft, from 1990 to 1995 before moving across town to premises in Norwich Road, lured the boys, aged between 13 and 16, into his private accommodation at the premises or a basement office and then indecently touched them, Ipswich Crown Court was told.

David Wilson, prosecuting, told the jury that in some cases Francis had got the boys to sit on his lap before touching their legs and stomach and then their genital area. He alleged that after touching them, Francis had given them money.

'He acted like a latter day Pied Piper,' said Mr Wilson.

Francis, 52, of Yarmouth Road, Norwich, has denied eight offences of indecent assault and two offences of sexual activity with a child between 1992 and 2005.

Mr Wilson told the court that one of the offences of indecent assault allegedly took place in Francis's private accommodation at the shop in Maidstone Road in 1992 after his wife had gone out.

Francis had invited a 13-year-old boy to play on a computer, he said, and after sexually assaulting him, he gave him �5 and told him: 'Let's not tell anyone.'

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After Francis moved to shop premises in Norwich Road, he had CCTV monitors installed in a basement office which, in addition to improving security, allowed him to see who was coming into the shop while he was sexually assaulting his victims, alleged Mr Wilson.

He told the court that in 2005 a 14-year-old boy had complained to the police about being sexually assaulted by Francis but no action had been taken at that time, after Francis told officers the boy had stolen �10 from him and had begged him not to tell his parents.

In 2008, another alleged victim contacted the police and claimed he had been sexually abused by Francis between 1992-95 when he was aged between 13 and 15. Thereafter, three further alleged victims were spoken to by the police and made complaints against Francis.

During police interviews, Francis denied sexually assaulting the boys and claimed that one of the boys had 'drummed up' support for his complaint among the other boys and they had colluded against him.

The trial continues.

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