Lowestoft shopkeeper in sex abuse case defended by wife

THE wife of a Suffolk shopkeeper accused of sexually abusing five teenage boys has told a court she has stood by him because she believes in his innocence.

Mother-of-three Rachel Francis told a jury at Ipswich Crown Court that she could have walked away from her husband Anthony Francis two years ago when the allegations were made against him but she had stayed because she believed in him.

She said if she had suspected her husband had sexually interfered with the alleged victims she would have challenged him about it and said there was no way she would lie to protect him if she thought he was guilty.

She said that since learning of the allegations in January 2009 she and her husband had felt 'numb and shattered'.

Her husband had 'gone to pieces' since the allegations and was no longer a 'happy, jokey and bubbly' person. 'He cries, he doesn't sleep. He's not himself. It's horrible,' said Mrs Francis.

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.

It has been alleged that Francis, who owned a shop in Maidstone Road, Lowestoft, between 1990 and 1995 before moving to premises in Norwich Road, Lowestoft, lured five boys aged between 13 and 16 into his private accommodation and indecently touched them.

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It is alleged that after the alleged assaults Francis gave the boys money.

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

Giving evidence yesterday Mrs Francis, 46, said she and Francis had been married since 1982 and had three grown-up children. She said he had always been faithful to her and had not shown an interest in unusual sexual practices or in homosexual sex.

She also told the court she had never seen her husband acting in an odd way towards boys.

The trial continues today.

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