Portsmouth choirmaster on trial for sex offences denies locking boy in church vestry

A CHOIRMASTER on trial accused of sex offences against 13 children has denied locking himself in a church vestry with a young boy.

Friday, 30th April 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Friday, 30th April 2021, 7:24 am

Mark Burgess, 68, yesterday started giving evidence at Portsmouth Crown Court where he denies 52 offences between 1976 and 2009.

Speaking as the trial continued in its seventh week, Burgess denied he locked himself in the All Saints Church vestry in Portsmouth with the boy.

Jurors previously heard the boy, now a man, alleged former music teacher Burgess touched between his legs and said: ‘Did you enjoy that?’

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Former choirmaster Mark Burgess, 68, of St Chad's Avenue, Hilsea, is on trial at Portsmouth Crown Court.

Fern Russell, defending, asked Burgess if he touched the boy. Burgess said: ‘No it’s a public place.’

Ms Russell said: ‘Is that the reason?’

Burgess said: ‘No. The reason is if you’re playing a piano people know you’re in there.’

Asked if he said ‘did you enjoy that?’ Burgess added: ‘No. Not at all.’

Ms Russell added: ‘Do you remember locking yourself in the vestry (with the complainant)?’

Burgess said: ‘No-one. Never.’

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Asked further about locking the door, he added: ‘If you think, the vicarage is right next door and it was a lounge right next door to the vestry.

‘So anybody sitting there would see who went in and out that door. The vicar, he wasn’t in and out, (if) you went (and) locked the door the vicar would say “what have you locked the door for?”’

Further asked if Burgess promoted people within choirs unduly, he said: ‘I’d be answerable to people for that.’

He confirmed some students had visited the home he shared with his mother and father.

But he said ‘it would have been wrong’ to have younger students visit.

Burgess, of St Chad’s Avenue, Hilsea, denies 27 charges of indecent assault, 17 of gross indecency with a child, five of buggery, two of sexual activity with a child and one attempted indecent assault.

Jurors have heard the former Portsmouth City Boys School music teacher was a choirmaster at St John the Baptist Church in Westbourne, and at All Saints Church in Commercial Road.

Burgess was expected to continue giving evidence today.

(Proceeding)

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