A "RESPECTED and trusted" church elder has gone on trial accused of sexually abusing children and women in the Jehovah's Witness community over a 10 year period beginning in 1985.

Mark Sewell, 53, of Porthkerry Road, Barry denies 12 charges including indecent assaults against girls under the age of 14, indecent assaults against a girl aged under 16 and a single charge of rape against a woman in 1990.

The jury at Merthyr Crown Court heard from prosecutor Sarah Waters that Sewell was a predator who had used his standing in the community to target girls and women for his sexual gratification.

On the opening day of the trial the court heard how Sewell had been accused of a string of offences against young girls and a charge of rape, following which the alleged victim became pregnant, before miscarrying.

On Wednesday, June 11 the jury heard from a witness who alleges she was abused by Sewell from ages 12 to 16.

She described how Sewell would often manoeuvre himself into situations where he would be rubbing her on top of him or massaging her, sometimes in bed in his underwear.

The woman, now her 30s, said that she would be bribed with alcohol as a "reward" for kissing him on the mouth.

She explained that she would be given vodka and orange if she kissed him "properly", on the lips using her tongue.

She told the court that he would tell her, "If you give me a proper kiss I will give you that drink you like."

The court was read a list of incidents recorded in a document the woman had written when she was 16.

The document says that in one incident he rubbed himself against her, biting her ear and in another had asked "what sort of thing do you think about when I kiss you?"

On other occasions he had tried to convince her to undress in front of him, and had placed his fingers in her mouth while stroking her face.

At 16 following an incident where she had cried in front of Sewell and told him not to come near her any more she informed her parents of the abuse and they confronted Sewell. This led to an internal judicial investigation, conducted by church elders, where Sewell's wife Mary denied the allegations on his behalf. The witness told the court that it was her understanding that several other complaints against Sewell were also in the process of being investigated by the Witnesses at this time.

After this, the woman recounted, Sewell had told her that she had misunderstood his behaviour and that if she made any more allegations that no one would believe her.

Defending Sewell, Marian Lewis contested that this was in fact the case, that Sewell's innocent behaviour had been misinterpreted and that the allegations were made because the woman didn't like Sewell.

The witness said: "He was a respected and trusted elder in the church and so it was very very easy for him to convince people that I was being stupid and misunderstanding him."

In 1993 the woman failed to take her allegations to court when her case was not deemed strong enough by the Crown Prosecution Service.

She explained that at this time she received a letter from Sewell's solicitors who told her that he had been declared bankrupt and that she was "not going to get any money from him".

She wrote directly to Sewell and told him she didn't want money.

"All I ever wanted," she said. "Was for him to admit what he did and say he's sorry."

The trial continues.