Former children’s home manager on trial for rape calls victim ‘fantasist’

PUBLISHED: 13:50 19 May 2019 | UPDATED: 13:50 19 May 2019

Woodlands Observation and Assessment Centre in March 1974. Picture: Archant archives

Woodlands Observation and Assessment Centre in March 1974. Picture: Archant archives


A convicted rapist has called one of his victims a “fantasist” after the university graduate claimed she had an affair with him while at the Norwich children’s home he ran in the 1970s.

Joseph Douglas Hewitt in 1995. Photo: Archant LibraryJoseph Douglas Hewitt in 1995. Photo: Archant Library

Joseph Douglas Hewitt was officer in charge of the Woodlands Observation and Assessment Centre, off Dereham Road, between 1974 and 1983.

Up to 25 children at a time, aged between eight and 18, would be sent there for assessment before being fostered or moved to another children's home.

In 1995 Hewitt was convicted of six counts of rape and sexual assault involving five girls at the home, committed in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The 79-year-old is now standing trial at King's Lynn Crown Court having denied allegations from five fresh alleged victims - three men and two women - who had been children at the home between 1978 and 1983.

Under cross examination from prosecutor Edward Renvoize, Hewitt said one of his accusers at the 1995 trial "was different" from the others.

He was convicted of sexually abusing her after she claimed they had an affair while she was at Woodlands.

"She had a crush on me," Hewitt told the jury. "I attempted to be a mentor to her."

He said she was "extremely disturbed, highly intelligent young lady" who subsequently went to a top university, where she was successful.

He said: "The night after I was convicted she wrote a letter to me asking that we continue our friendship. She also quoted the Bible and said I had denied her three times just like Peter had with Christ."

Mr Renvoize asked if the victim had been mistaken or lying about the sexual abuse.

"She was a fantasist and was not grounded in reality," Hewitt said.

Former staff at Woodlands had told the court of a practice known as 'specialling' where children would be observed one-to-one.

One recalled seeing Hewitt in a room with one of the alleged victims in the trial, with the boy dressed only in his pyjamas.

But Hewitt denied using sanctions such as 'pyjama watch', saying there may have been a "different regime" after he left.

Asked about allegations from another boy who was at Woodlands, Hewitt said he was a "fantasist".

"It is the ramblings of someone who had difficulty maintaining any semblance of reality,' he said.

"We have no records to prove it."

The court has heard how Norfolk County Council has lost social service files for all five of the complainants in the case.

Mr Renvoize said: "Ten different people have all made allegations of sexual abuse against you. Ten different children all came to Woodlands. Ten all grew up and were prepared to tell lies about you?

"All of those individuals were vulnerable and you are a man who likes to be in control. You pick the vulnerable children because you know they do not have anyone to complain to."

Hewitt said: "Without question I was a soft target with a history of sex abuse. It would strengthen their case for compensation against the local authority."

Hewitt, of Snelsmoor Lane, Chellaston, Derby, has denied two counts of rape, three of a serious sexual offence, two of indecent assault and two of gross indecency.

The trial, expected to last five weeks, continues. The jury were told of the previous convictions.

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