Jehovah's Witness elder jailed for 14 years for sexually abusing girls as young as 12 from his own congregation and raping one woman leaving her pregnant
By Mia De Graaf
Published: 09:28 EST, 2 July 2014 | Updated: 14:16 EST, 2 July 2014
Remorseless: Mark Sewell, 53, abused girls as young as 12 at his Jehovah's Witness church congregation in Barry near Cardiff, Wales, in a string of attacks that spanned eight years
A Jehovah’s Witness elder has been jailed for 14 years for sexually abusing girls as young as 12.
Mark Sewell, 53, raped one woman in his congregation in Barry, near Cardiff, leaving her pregnant.
He also molested one girl and abused two others in a string of attacks that spanned eight years.
But when the victims reported him to the church, a committee cleared him of all allegations - and shredded the evidence.
Finally, after 19 years, he has been found guilty of eight counts of sexual abuse.
Judge Richard Twomlow told him: 'You were in a position of trust as a senior member of the church.
'Your victims felt inhibited about what they could say because of your position as an elder.
'You caused distress in the lives of your victims who had the feeling they were disbelieved.
'You have shown not a thread of remorse.'
The jury heard how, between 1987 and 1995, he raped one woman, 'shredding' her underwear in an attack which left her pregnant. She later miscarried.
One of his victims was just 12 when he kissed her on the lips and started giving her massages.
Another girl was forced to take off her top while he massaged her, while a third was made to rub up against him.
The jury heard he stripped to his underwear during one incident and bribed his victim with alcohol before molesting her.
During a three-week trial at Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court jurors heard how Sewell would kiss the girl using his tongue and would pull her on top of his body as he lay on the sofa of his £200,000 terraced house in Barry.
After the teenager reported the sickening abuse she was forced to face Sewell at three meetings organised by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Respect church elder Sewell branded her a liar and avoided being disciplined.
His victims were banned from 'gossiping' about the attacks by other church elders.
One said: 'I just felt totally crushed. It was as if he had this power over everyone and no-one could see the real him except for me.'
Jehovah's Witnesses, a Christian denomination renowned for literal translation of the Bible. Rather than being led by a paid clergy, they have 'spiritually mature' men - 'elders' - who shepherd the congregation.
Secrets: The respected church elder was let off the charges by his church when the victims originally brought forward allegations. The court heard Sewell's church also shredded the evidence and refused to help the trial
Sewell was cleared of the complaints by a Jehovah’s Witness 'judicial committee' after the women reported his behaviour to the church.
But a jury at Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court found him guilty of a string of attacks between 1987 and 1995. He was convicted of eight sexual offences including one of rape.
The Jehovah’s Witness church provided nothing to help the police in their investigation and allegedly shredded documents showing complaints about Sewell.
Prosecutor Sarah Waters said: 'Sewell is a sexual predator that took opportunities available to him to satisfy his sexual desires.
Attacks: He would take his victims to his house in Barry, near Cardiff, Wales, strip naked and massage them
'He used his high position in the Jehovah’s Witness congregation to act in a sexually inappropriate manner with women.
'He used his influence to perpetrate sexual abuse over a number of years for his own sexual gratification.'
All Jehovah’s Witness congregation are registered charities. The Charity Commission is investigating the case.