A children’s home owner, a local radio DJ and a professional wrestler were among members of a paedophile ring that preyed on vulnerable boys in north Wales in the 1980s, a court has heard.
The boys, who were often isolated, were manipulated by members of the ring and groomed with treats ranging from alcohol to car trips and meals, it was claimed.
Victims as young as 10 would be plied with amyl nitrate, or “poppers”, and passed around the group, the jury was told. Sometimes they were given money by the abusers.
Seven men, all in their 50s, 60s and 70s, deny a total of 47 offences of sexual abuse against five alleged victims. The prosecution alleges the charges are only a sample of the abuse suffered. The men deny all offences.
Opening the case at Mold crown court in north Wales on Tuesday, Eleanor Laws QC told the jury: “This case is concerned with the activities of a predatory pedophiliac ring operating in the Wrexham area.”
She said the home of former wrestler Gary Cooke, also known as Mark Granger, was at the centre of the ring. Boys were allegedly abused at his house in a village just outside Wrexham, at a nearby bar called Snowy’s owned by another defendant, David Lightfoot, and at other addresses in the area.
Laws said: “Young boys were sexually abused and passed around the group. It would appear that troubled boys and young teenagers would congregate at Cooke’s home, where they would watch pornographic movies, would be plied with drink, given amyl nitrate, which would relax muscles, and sexually abused. Afterwards, on occasions, they were given money.
“The boys were young, vulnerable sometimes isolated by family circumstances and manipulated by Cooke and others. No doubt chosen for the fact that the defendants could exploit their youth, any difficulties they were in at the time and groom them using treats, alcohol, cinema trips, car trips, pornography and above all; attention, leading to grave sexual offences.”
Laws said the main witness in the case alleged he had been abused in the early to mid-80s by all seven defendants – along with three other men including a driving instructor and teacher, who are both dead. He said he was introduced to Cooke, now 64, by a friend.
On his first visit, when he was 12 or 13, he was shown a pornographic film and sexually assaulted, it was alleged. Later he was “pimped out” to other men, the prosecution claims. Cooke would pull up in his car outside the boy’s family home and whistle for him.
Sometimes they would go to Snowy’s bar out of hours. He and another boy would help themselves to beer and play on the gaming machines. “To me it was great and exciting,” the alleged victim told police.
Another witness due to give evidence has said he went “seriously off the rails” after the abuse began and only escaped Cooke by being taken into care.