Church elder locked woman in car and asked for sex, court hears

First published in News

A MEMBER of the Jehovah's Witnesses committee that investigated sexual assault and rape allegations against a fellow church elder has told a trial that they evicted him from the church after finding his behaviour to be "unacceptable".

On Wednesday, June 18, Merthyr Crown Court also heard from a witness who described how defendant Mark Sewell, 53, of Porthkerry Road, Barry, drove her onto wasteland against her will and propositioned her for sex following a campaign of inappropriate and increasingly sexual behaviour.

The woman, who met Mark Sewell in the mid 90s, told Merthyr Crown Court that at first he had been a "jolly" and "nice" man who soon began to make unwanted advances toward her.

The jury heard that Sewell, who denies 12 charges including sexual assaults on girls aged under 14 and 16 and one count of rape, would massage the woman's shoulders and neck from behind, would make frequent attempts to get the woman alone, asking her to kiss him and in one incident approached her from behind as she was making a cup of tea and rubbed himself against her in an overtly sexual manner.

These advances culminated in an episode where Sewell had asked the woman, who was in a relationship at the time, to accompany him in his car to help him with a task.

Rather than driving the expected route Sewell drove onto wasteland near Barry Docks, parked the car, locked the doors and began asking the woman questions about her sex life and relationship.

She said: "He took his seat belt off, moved over and asked me if we could have sex".

Requesting to get back onto the road, the witness told the court that Sewell then said: "If sex is out of the question can I just have a grope.

"I was terrified, I was frozen."

Eventually Sewell put his seat belt back on and drove away.

Sewell denies that the incidents referred to ever occurred and claims that some of his behaviour was merely "banter" that had been misinterpreted.

After this incident the woman said that she went to Sewell's church in Barry because she was so concerned about his behaviour.

"I told them what had happened," she said. "I said I don't think he should be in the position he was in within the church with females where they are young and vulnerable."

Church Elder David Newman, a retired teacher from Penarth, was part of the committee that investigated all of the allegations against Mark Sewell, including the rape of a fellow church goer at his home.

The committee "disfellowshipped" Sewell following the investigation which took place around 1993.

"Ultimately we came to the conclusion that Mark's behaviour was unacceptable and he was disfellowshipped," said Mr Newman.

Mr Newman then told the court that he advised the victims to take their allegations to the police.

He added that Mark Sewell returned to the Jehovah's Witnesses around three years later at a different congregation in Llantwit Major.

The trial heard earlier this week from a witnesses who alleges that she was given a series of topless massages by Sewell when she was around 12 years old.

The trial continues.

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