December 10 2013 Latest news:
Friday, October 18, 2013
On the face of it, Michael Souter was a well-respected radio presenter, broadcaster and journalist – but it was purely a veneer to mask the depravity which lay beneath, as crime correspondent PETER WALSH reports.
Michael Souter led an extraordinary double life using his ‘celebrity’ to prey upon and abuse the young and vulnerable people he, as a scout leader and mentor with Norfolk County Council’s link-up scheme, had access to but was supposed to protect.
By day this ‘meticulous’ man, a self confessed “fusspot”, was a seemingly well -respected go-getter – a high flier in the local media world who had come to Norfolk from his native Scotland in 1980 to take up a post with the new Radio Norfolk outfit.
He said in court how he was to be the station’s “action man” or “Radio Norfolk’s John Noakes” but his public persona – that which he aired on his radio shows – hid a private alter ego which became immersed in the murky world of online chatrooms.
It was in these chatrooms where, under the cover of anonymity provided by false names like Mike Smith and Gym Kit, his dark and disturbing obsession with boys, particularly those in shorts and uniforms, manifested itself.
Souter admitted to homosexual experiences during his seven years at sea in the Navy while auxiliary, but insisted he was not gay, rather that he had a “slight bit of bisexuality” about him.
However his online activities and compulsion to regress, particularly during times of stress, to when he was a schoolboy told an altogether different story.
He told the court he would dress up as a schoolboy before seeing a “headmaster or house master” and be punished by older men who would spank him.
Souter described his regression as a way of “escaping” while he insisted the numerous images of boys in shorts found on his computer were merely part of collections of pictures taken on his travels around the world which showed “daily life” in those countries.
But Souter was kidding no-one, least of all prosecutor Andrew Shaw, who pointed to the evidence of those who accused him – and the detail of items that were seized from his home at Wramplingham following his first arrest in 1993.
All seven of Souter’s victims, who were aged between 11 and 16 at the time the offences were carried out, over some 20 years spanning 1979 to 1999, were people who had a right to be safe in Souter’s company.
After all, this was a man who, coming from a Naval background, was not only a seemingly well-respected journalist and broadcaster, but was heavily involved in the scouting movement in Norfolk at the time and was even part of Norfolk County Council’s Link Up scheme where he acted as a male mentor and father figure to vulnerable young children.
The tragedy for those boys was that Souter was not the man they or their families thought he was. He was a predator who used his position in the media, as a local celebrity, as a scout leader and as a mentor to select “pliable” young boys and feed his dark, deviant desires.
Souter’s catalogue of abuse began in 1979 when he worked at BBC Radio Norfolk. There he met a teenager doing casual work. The boy then carried out some odd jobs at Souter’s home where he indecently assaulted him.
During the 1980s and 1990s Souter’s abuse escalated. He took up senior positions in the community through the Scout Association, setting up a group in Costessey and eventually attaining the status of Assistant County Commissioner for Norfolk.
As a local Scout leader he was able to select victims to single out for special treatment which then developed into indecent assault and gross indecency.
He also put himself forward for positions of responsibility with young boys through services run by Norfolk County Council. Here he committed the bulk of his offences, repeatedly abusing two boys over five years including raping them.
He also used his connections with these victims to develop relationships with other boys whom he also went on to abuse.
In 2010 a man who was abused by Souter in the 1980s and 1990s reported the crimes to Norfolk Constabulary.
The man also passed on details of two other victims.
On the face of it he was friendly and charming otherwise his slow, calculating grooming of these innocents would not have worked.
He took boys to places including burger restaurants, Norwich City Football Club, Pleasurewood Hills, Centre Parcs, trips away in his caravan, even trips abroad and of course visits to his home.
It was at Souter’s home where the “forbidden fruit” of alcohol was on offer before the “tried and tested” bedtime hug routine which preceded the serious sexual abuse that was to follow.
For one of the complainants the abuse he suffered by Souter was the first sexual experience he had encountered, while for another the abuse became so entrenched over a number of years that it had become second nature.
Another even stole bromide from school in a desperate attempt to suppress Souter’s sexual appetite.
Despite complaints being made by one boy in 1993, after which Souter was arrested, and further complaints by two others in 2002 it was only in 2012 – more than two decades later that he was finally charged with any offences having been arrested, for the second time, in 2011.
These boys, now adults, have had to relive the horrors they were subjected to some two decades ago in front of a packed courtroom which included their abuser.
That Souter has continued to protest his innocence, even to this day, has only acted to prolong their suffering with all of them either being accused of making up their stories or colluding to ruin him.