THE mother of a young girl groomed by a paedophile who dressed as Father Christmas branded him ‘disgusting’.
Lawrence Lewis was called a ‘dirty old man’ by a judge who jailed him for offering two girls, aged eight and 11, cash to flash in a pub.
Shelf-stacker Lewis regularly dressed up as Santa at Christmas in Asda in Bedhampton and was widely-known as Father Christmas in the area.
The now-unemployed 57-year-old had a white bushy beard, white curly hair and was well-built when he groomed the girls in December last year and in January.
On one occasion he offered them both cash to expose themselves at the Wellington pub in Waterlooville but was only found out when he targeted the younger girl for a second time and she then told her mother immediately.
Speaking to The News, her mother said: ‘He’s disgusting.
‘I never knew his name, he used to refer to himself as Father Christmas and that’s why all the kids would say “look it’s Father Christmas”.
‘I didn’t know that until afterwards.
‘He used to go up to kids at Christmas, apparently he used to have the kids sit on his lap and go to people’s houses.
‘She won’t go near anyone now, she worries about any males she comes across.’
Lewis, of Springwood Avenue, Waterlooville, offered the girls £4 and £3 to expose themselves and had offered them sweets previously to ‘groom’ them.
Recorder Shamim Qureshi jailed him for 22 months after Lewis admitted three counts of inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity.
The judge also banned him from acting or dressing up as Santa for 10 years and from contacting girls under 16 in a sexual harm prevention order.
Robert Forrest, prosecuting, said: ‘Given his conviction for these offences it would be necessary and proportionate to stop him acting as Father Christmas in the foreseeable future.’
In police interview Lewis had told officers he had no recollection of what happened and the court heard he had on one day been drinking for four hours.
Lian Webster-Martin, for Lewis, said he was remorseful, and pleaded guilty as he accepted that, while he had no recollection of the incident, the girls had no reason to lie.
Sentencing, Recorder Qureshi said: ‘Father Christmas turns out to be a dirty old man.’
Lewis must pay a £100 victim surcharge and sign the sex offenders’ register for 10 years.
Investigating officer PC Mike Morgan said: ‘We thank the children for their bravery in coming forward to give evidence.’