Selsdon monk 'made death threats to silence victim', sexual abuse trial hears
ONE of the UK's top Buddhist monks, who is accused of a string of sexual assaults on two young girls, warned one of his alleged victims her father "would die" if she went public, a court heard.
The Venerable Pahalagama Somaratana, who has been chief monk at Thames Buddhist Vihara, in Dulverton Road, Selsdon, for the past 31 years, is charged with nine counts of indecent assault and one of rape.
It is alleged one of the girls was targeted in Chiswick, west London, in 1978, while abuse against the other girl is said to have taken place in the mid-1980s at the Croydon temple, a jury was told.
Both were aged between nine and ten at the time of the alleged abuse.
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On Wednesday, Isleworth Crown Court heard verbal and written evidence from 24 witnesses called by the defence to verify the character of Somaratana.
This included a statement from the acting high commissioner of Sri Lanka and a brief testimony from the Asian country's high court, which read "Pahalagama Somaratana is considered a strict disciplinarian".
Earlier in the trial last week, the court heard that the accused would routinely visit Sunday school classes at the temple, which were attended by about 20 children aged between 4 and 16.
The first victim spoke of ten abuses in the spring of 1978, including the rape and five of the sexual assaults with which Somaratana has been charged.
When asked why she had not come forward sooner, the witness said Somaratana had threatened that her "parents would be angry and that her father would die".
Prosecuting, Richard Merz told the court the girl had been enticed into the monk's room with fruit Polos and told to sit on his lap.
Later Somaratana is said to have cornered her in the temple shrine and raped her.
The second alleged victim, said to have been sexually abused in the mid-1980s, described to the court that she remembered "being alone" in Somaratana's room on the pretence of discussing upcoming temple services.
When questioned why she had only come forward about 25 years after the alleged assaults, she told the court: "At the time as a child, I thought that it was all an accident.
"Looking back on it now as an adult, I know that this was definitely not the case."
The court was told that she went to the police after details of the alleged abuse were revealed during a hypnotherapy session three years ago.
Somaratana has pleaded not guilty to all charges against him.
The trial, which is expected to last three weeks, continues.