Portsmouth teacher and choirmaster 'groomed and abused 13 children' over 30 years, jury told

A ‘MANIPULATIVE’ choirmaster groomed and sexually abused 13 young children including one who said he thought it was ‘just part and parcel’ of being a choirboy, a court heard.

Tuesday, 16th March 2021, 4:02 pm
Updated Tuesday, 16th March 2021, 5:52 pm

Former music teacher and chorister Mark Burgess, 67, is on trial at Portsmouth Crown Court where he denies 52 child sex offences between 1976 and 2009.

Jurors have been told the ‘accomplished’ musician would ‘take the opportunity to groom’ the children.

He was a teacher at the time at Portsmouth City Boys School, and choirmaster at All Saints Church in Commercial Road in the city centre, and at St John the Baptist Church in Westbourne.

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Former choirmaster Mark Burgess, 67, of St Chad's Avenue, Hilsea, is on trial at Portsmouth Crown Court accused of 52 child sex offences

Opening the prosecution case, Anna Vigars QC told the jury some of the abuse took place in the vestry at All Saints Church.

One man said he was under 10 in the 1970s when Burgess abused him, the court heard.

He later spoke to police and said: ‘I thought... (the abuse was)... just part and parcel of being a choirboy.’

Another boy was first ‘fondled’ in church but ‘the abuse got worse as the time went on,’ Mrs Vigars said.

Former choirmaster Mark Burgess, 66, of St Chad's Avenue, Hilsea, is on trial at Portsmouth Crown Court accused of 52 child sex offences

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Describing an incident, the man - who told police of the abuse as an adult - said: ‘I don’t know why I went, I knew something may happen. Then I just blank everything out, it was just a dream, it would be over soon, then I could just go home.’

Burgess told another boy: ‘You can’t tell your mum and dad,’ the court heard.

The same complainant said Burgess showed him a ‘large amounts of pornography’ in a rented garage and was abused there, jurors heard.

He added: ‘It was horrific, basically.’

Another of the boys – who are all now adults – said sex with Burgess at 14 was ‘the price to be paid’.

‘The sexual activity, the sexual abuse, that was the price to be paid for the rest,’ Mrs Vigars said.

She said Burgess would ‘take the opportunity to groom the young people to draw them closer to him’ and there was a ‘pattern’ to his abuse.

In some cases he allowed the boys to have cigarettes and alcohol to make them ‘more likely to do what he wanted sexually, and less likely to complain about that,’ she said.

Mrs Vigars added: ‘It was manipulative behaviour on his part.’

The prosecutor said Burgess was responsible over the years for ‘teaching and guiding many young people,’ many of whom were ‘untouched’ by him.

But she added: ‘There has also been a series of people over the years upon whom his penchant has fixed and he’s taken advantage.’

Some of the children were abused in his bedroom at his parents’ house, or in a garage, the prosecutor said.

She said the boys were ‘invited by him to his room’ and some were ‘taken’ to the rented garage nearby.

Jurors heard one boy said the garage was where Burgess had sex with him and was the site of ‘the worst sort of occasions happened’. He said the sex was a ‘common thing,’ jurors were told.

Another boy who was touched by Burgess ‘felt good’ by being ‘singled out,’ Mrs Vigars said.

She said: ‘It made him feel special, it made him feel good.’

The only girl who alleges abuse, a teenager, said Burgess ‘pressed against me then put his hand on my breast’.

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.

He was ‘pretty well regarded by young people who spent time with him,’ the court heard.

Burgess told police no sexual activity took place.

‘He denied that he’s had sexual contact with any of those people, either as they allege or in any other way,’ Mrs Vigars said.

Burgess is ‘not sexually attracted to men or boys,’ he told police and was ‘too busy for any sexual liaison,’ she added.

Some of the touching could have been him ‘tapping out rhythm’ on the arm or leg of a child being taught, Burgess told police.

Mrs Vigars added: ‘Sexual abuse, he says, simply did not happen.’

Jurors were told Burgess worked at various schools, including at St Luke’s School. He left in 2010.

The trial is expected to last nine weeks.


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