Tyne & Wear

Sunderland child rapist who faked disability jailed

George and Wendy Stephenson Image copyright Northumbria Police
Image caption George and Wendy Stephenson, from Sunderland, convinced two psychiatrists he was unfit to plead

A child rapist who faked being severely disabled to avoid prosecution has been jailed for 26 years and four months.

George Stephenson and his wife Wendy convinced two experts he was unfit to plead to the historical offences.

But she later revealed he was faking it and police surveillance caught him walking, driving and eating a service station burger.

The 60-year-old was found guilty of 14 rape charges and admitted perverting the course of justice.

His 68-year-old wife admitted indecent assault against the same victim and perverting the course of justice. She was jailed for three years and 10 months.

Image copyright Northumbria Police
Image caption Despite claiming he could not walk or talk, Stephenson was arrested on a shed roof waving a plank of wood at officers

Prosecutor Anne Richardson told Newcastle Crown Court the couple, of Midmoor Road, Sunderland, first appeared in court charged with sexual offences in July 2017.

He was in a wheelchair and seemed to be "completely incapable of comprehending anything".

Two psychiatrists found him incomprehensible and his wife said he was unable to walk, talk or eat solid food.

Stephenson was ruled unfit to plead but a trial went ahead in November 2017 and he was convicted of rape.

Sentencing was adjourned until after his wife's trial in April 2018.

'Completely inhumane'

On the day of her trial, Wendy Stephenson admitted two counts of indecent assault and told the court her husband's disability was a hoax.

Police then secretly filmed him walking, driving and eating and when he was arrested in July 2018, he climbed on to a shed roof and waved a plank of wood at officers.

He later admitted perverting the course of justice but, when his court case arrived, he again tried to "portray himself as a monosyllabic near vegetable", Ms Richardson said.

A second rape trial in March found him guilty.

Anthony Hawkes, defending Wendy Stephenson, said it was an abusive relationship and she had been "subjected to a high level of physical, emotional and sexual harm".

Judge Tim Gittens said the deception was "devious and manipulative in the extreme" and the victim had to go through the ordeal of giving evidence twice.

Det Ch Insp Phil Bond, from Northumbria Police, said: "These two people have had the most abhorrent disregard for the victim and their actions have been completely inhumane."

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