A 64-year-old Mansfield man, accused of child abuse, says he downloaded indecent images of young girls because he felt he “should be female”.
But he denied being sexually excited by the photos because he preferred “skinny women, such as Paula Radcliffe and Maria Sharapova”.
John Lett, of Arran Square, was in the dock at Nottingham Crown Court, giving evidence on the fourth day of a trial in which he denies three counts of sexually assaulting a girl, aged between five and eight.
The jury heard that the assaults allegedly happened during the same period, between January 2011 and October 2013, as another similar offence against a three-year-old girl, for which he was convicted and sent to prison for two years.
At the time, more than 17,000 indecent images were also found on Lett’s computer, and he was asked by prosecuting barrister, Stephen Kemp, about his interest in young girls.
“It was nothing sexual,” Lett said. “It was to do with the body image. It was how I perceived at the time that I should be. I thought I should be female, so I wanted to see how I should look.”
He said these feelings became clear to him after he had voluntarily attended a sexual offenders’ treatment programme that ran for several months.
Lett admitted that, at one time, he did have a sexual interest in children, but “I viewed it as the ultimate taboo”. He went on: “I looked at lots and lots of pictures. It had got to the stage where I thought they would sexually excite me, but they didn’t at all.” Instead he preferred “slim, skinny body shapes” and women such as sports stars Radcliffe and Sharapova, he had told police in interview.
Lett, who has been married to his wife, Pamela, for 40 years, told the court he had “accepted responsibility” for his previous offences and served his sentence. “But now I must be hated by one and all,” he said.
Lett is accused of sexually assaulting the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, when looking after her at her family home while her father, with whom he had become friends, attended medical appointments at hospital or at the doctor’s. The dad had split up with the girl’s mother.
Lett admitted the girl, who is now ten years old, was “affectionate” towards him and ran up to him for a hug every time he visited the house to help with DIY jobs. He also agreed that he popped her on his knee and helped her with reading.
However, he firmly denied a claim by Mr Kemp that he was “an opportunist, who sexually abused her when you got her on her own” and then warned her not to tell anyone.
“That didn’t happen,” said Lett. “There were no specific instances when I baby-sat.” Instead he spent most of his time at work for a Kidderminster-based company called IVTS whom, he said, supplied and maintained industrial vending machines that sold metal-cutting equipment for the aerospace industry. He acceppted that he did spent some time working from home, but most of the working week, he was on call, at the firm’s head office or visiting customer companies.
“I couldn’t have agreed to look after a child because I was at work or I could be called out to work at any time,” he said.
The jury is expected to retire to consider its verdict on Friday morning after the judge, Recorder Stuart Sprawson, has delivered his summing-up of the case.
THE TRIAL IS CONTINUING