A judge has delayed sentencing a former West Norfolk newsagent for a string of sex offences against two young girls after he suffered a suspected heart attack after being convicted.
Pensioner Peter Lee, 75, of Lords Lane, Heacham, was convicted of 12 counts of indecent assault and six of gross indecency, all with girls under the age of 16.
The charges relate to two girls, who were aged between nine and 15, during the 1970s and 1980s. Sentencing had to be adjourned on Wednesday after the court was told that Lee had suffered a suspected heart attack.
News of Lee’s conviction has shocked the close-knit community of Heacham, where he had lived for many years and at one time ran the newsagent’s shop .
Villager Colin Hawksworth said: “I would not have expected it of him. He seemed an amiable chap.”
Another villager, who did not wish to be named, was shocked by the offences.
She said: “I couldn’t believe it as he seemed so nice – but if that is the sort of thing he got up to then it serves him right.”
Another trader in the village said: “He was always the perfect gentleman and I’m shocked by the allegation.”
As previously reported, Lee had denied sexually abusing two girls in Haverhill, Suffolk, between 1972 and 1981.
He faced 13 counts of indecent assault on a girl aged under 16 and six charges of gross indecency with a girl aged under 16.
No evidence was offered in relation to one of the indecent assault allegations.
Giving evidence in Ipswich Crown Court , he told the jury: “None of it is true”, but said he could not explain why the allegations had been made against him.
He said women had found him attractive when he lived in Haverhill and that he had responded to that.
But, under cross-examination, he admitted having a number of previous convictions, though none was for violent or sexual offences.
He also admitted meeting the girls, but denied acting inappropriately.
The older of the two victims, who is now in her early 50s, told the jury at an earlier hearing that she had been abused on an almost weekly basis by Lee, whom she claimed had warned her not to tell anyone what had taken place.
The court was told the women, who came forward in January this year, had been encouraged to go to police following media coverage of several high-profile sex abuse cases.
A jury of eight men and four women took just over four hours to convict him.
After the news of his illness was announced to the court, Judge David Goodin, who had warned Lee to expect a prison term when the verdicts were delivered, set a provisional date of Monday, October 16 for him to return to court.