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TV's Talbot 'a sex abuse chancer'

Television weatherman Fred Talbot used his "boundless energy" and "extrovert personality" to help gain the affection and trust of five schoolboys he sexually abused, a jury has heard.

Talbot, 65, is said to have indecently assaulted his victims between the late 1960s and the early 1980s during his former career as a teacher.

Four of the complainants were teenage pupils at Altrincham Grammar School for Boys, where Talbot taught biology.

Opening the case at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court, prosecutor Neil Usher said: "The very qualities that made Fred Talbot so successful as a TV celebrity - his boundless energy, his infectious enthusiasm, his extrovert personality - helped him gain, we say, the trust of these boys.

"Trust, which the prosecution say, Mr Talbot repeatedly abused when, away from their parents on school trips organised by Mr Talbot, he sexually assaulted each of them.

"We say that when it came to teenage boys in his care, Fred Talbot was something of a 'chancer'.

"One of these men who regularly and repeatedly tries it on with his intended victim as often as he can in the hope that his sexual advances will not be rejected.

"Or, at the very least, the sexual advances will be met by a passive response due to confusion, fear, intoxication or youthful inexperience of how to react when being placed in such an unusual, shocking and, no doubt on occasion, frightening position.

"And we say that like many child abusers who are in a position of authority who are confident and who are plainly well liked by their peers, he gambled that each of the boys he took advantage of would find it impossible to speak out and tell other adults what he had done, either through fear of not being believed or because it would inevitably involve speaking to parents or other teachers about embarrassing matters of a sexual, indeed homosexual, nature."

Talbot, of Bowdon, Greater Mancehster, who was a regular on the floating weather map in Liverpool's Albert Dock for ITV's top-rating This Morning show, denies 10 counts of indecent assault.

The jury of nine women and three men were told that many if not all of them would know the defendant as "Fred the Weatherman".

He had appeared on local and national television since the mid-1980s until recently, and has appeared in various other ITV programmes, the court heard.

Outlining the allegations, Mr Usher said they centred around two distinct periods of time - firstly when Talbot was a trainee teacher in Newcastle in the late 1960s and early 1970s and secondly from the mid-70s to 1984 when Talbot taught in Altrincham.

The prosecutor said Talbot says nothing sexual or even inappropriate occurred between himself and the Altrincham pupils, while he states that sexual activity with the complainant during his teacher training only happened when the boy turned 16.

The latter complainant said he first met Talbot when he visited his school in Gateshead and was someone who came from a very poor background and had limited life experiences.

Mr Usher said: "Meeting Mr Talbot meant he was able to go places and do things and meet people he would never have been able to had the defendant not taken him under his wing."

Within weeks, the boy was invited to visit Talbot at his accommodation and it later led to the pair sharing a bed with Talbot "pushing and manoeuvring himself against him" in a sexual manner, he said.

It was the boy's first sexual experience, added Mr Usher, which left him very confused.

There were more overnight visits Talbot "gained in confidence and stepped up his sexual advances", said the prosecutor.

The court heard that the complainant is clear that the defendant never forced himself upon him but described Talbot coaxing him into letting perform sexual acts on him.

On one occasion he recalled, when still aged 15, he went to a ball at Talbot's teacher training college with a girl and later the defendant unzipped this trousers and performed oral sex on him outside.

The next complainant claimed he was sexually assaulted by Talbot in the mid-1970s on a barge during a canal trip organised by Altrincham Boys Grammar School.

He said Talbot was the teacher in charge and each night one of the schoolboys had to sleep in a double bed with him as there were not enough bunk beds for everyone.

Talbot sexually assaulted him in the bed, he alleges.

Mr Usher said the teenager was one of a number of former pupils who described how Talbot managed to gain their trust and affection.

He said: "He said that he was good at befriending you, making you feel like he was your mate, a friend more than a teacher. An approach the prosecution says was quite deliberate on the part of Mr Talbot, given his objective of gaining the trust of these boys."

The third complainant said he too was indecently assaulted in the mid-1970s by Talbot in his double bed on the barge during a weekend canal trip.

He said he was drunk after Talbot took older boys to the pub and later brought beer back to the boat.

Mr Usher said: "He recalls Mr Talbot suggesting that some of the boys pretend to be girls so that they could, as he put it, have an 'orgy' which had to be kept secret. He recalls the boys and Mr Talbot all taking their clothes off and rolling around."

The jury heard that this complainant previously contacted police in 1992, 1996 and 1998 to say that Talbot had sexually abused him but the defendant denied the allegations and police decided there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.

The alleged victim admitted that when he went back to the police in 1996, he exaggerated the events of the sexual abuse in frustration at the case not going forward, Mr Usher said.

The fourth complainant said he was drinking in a pub local to Talbot when he and some of his friends were invited back to the defendant's home.

The then-16-year-old said he went to the toilet and Talbot came up behind him and said "I can do that for you" and grabbed hold of his penis.

Mr Usher said this was yet another example of the defendant "trying it on" with a teenage boy to whom he was plainly sexually attracted.

The final complainant said he too was aged 16 when he and a friend went to a party at Talbot's home in Bowdon.

He recalled that they knocked on the door and Talbot greeted them completely naked.

Talbot went on to get dressed and during the evening indecently assaulted the youngster in his living room while the pair were alone, the court heard.

The court heard that Talbot's teaching career came to "an abrupt end" in 1984 following an incident involving a pupil at his home.

Talbot, who also taught astronomy, had invited a number of boys to stay over as "there was a particular alignment of planets expected on that night and the defendant had a telescope at home".

One of the boys said during the evening he was propositioned by Talbot who asked him if he could perform a sex act on him, said the prosecutor.

The youngster politely declined and said there was nothing he could do that his girlfriend could not do for him.

Talbot is then said to have remarked: "I think you'll find I can."

He also told the youngster and another boy who were intending to stay the night to "make sure you leave room for me in the middle".

The boy told his father who rang the defendant to complain, said Mr Usher.

The prosecutor said Talbot offered to discuss the matter but before he had the opportunity the school's headteacher informed the boy's father that Talbot would not be coming round and had resigned with immediate affect.

A diary entry written by Talbot, said to be in relation to the above incident , said: "As usual I had quite a bit to drink, as usual I tried. I must be mad."

Mr Usher said the defendant was out of work following his sudden departure from school and his career in television took off some time later.

The police investigation into Talbot in 2012 came following publicity into an unrelated sex abuse probe at St Ambrose College, another school in the Altrincham area.

A woman rang detectives to say a friend of hers had been sexually abused by Talbot as a pupil, which led to police locating one of the complainants who told them he was indeed a victim.

Police went on track down the alleged victim who had made three complaints previously about the defendant, while the others came forward as a result of publicity of Talbot's arrest.

The prosecutor said Talbot offered "no comment" when he was spoken to by police and formally interviewed under caution.

The first complainant to give evidence said he first met Talbot when he was a pupil at Elgin Senior High School in Gateshead.

He told the jury that he had began regularly visiting Talbot's bedsit near Newcastle and eventually shared a bed with him.

He said he was "stunned" on the first occasion he said the then trainee teacher indecently assaulted him.

After climbing into bed Talbot began "manoeuvring and pushing bodily", he said.

The witness said: "It was like a pushing movement and eventually someone being beside and on top of me."

Mr Usher asked him: "Who was that someone?"

The witness replied: "Fred."

"He was touching, rubbing my chest, touching my genitals, getting aroused. Putting his hand in my underwear ... eventually masturbating me."

Asked about his reaction, the complainant said: "I was stunned. I was 14 years old, I was inexperienced. I had had no sexual activity before. I was confused."

He said sexual activity followed at the bedsit between the pair "many more times" in the same pattern as before and also on an occasion when he stayed at Talbot's mother's home.

The witness went on to say that Talbot touched and fondled him in the darkness at a local cinema "throughout the performance", and that Talbot performed oral sex on him at a ball at his teacher training college.

He also told Mr Usher how he discovered a file at Talbot's bedsit which had a negative photo of him on the front and his name printed on the side.

Inside were "hundreds of pages", he said.

He told the jury: "I felt awful that somebody was writing something about me that I didn't know about, like some sort of dossier.

"I recall putting it in a bin at a bus stop."

He said he had stopped seeing the defendant when he was aged 16 as "other guys came on the scene" in Talbot's life as he switched schools, and had not seen Talbot in person since.

The complainant said he came forward following publicity into Talbot's investigation and he told his wife for the first time before then contacting the police.

Asked why he had not told anyone previously, he said: "I think being so young at the time and thinking about it later I knew it was wrong and dirty and it should not have happened. I didn't tell anyone over the years ... it was hard to get out."

The witness asked for the dock to be screened so that he did not have to face Talbot as he gave evidence.

The trial, expected to last up to four weeks, continues tomorrow.

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