A Church of England priest used the respectability of his cassock to groom and sexually abuse young boys along with his organist, a court heard today.
Father Keith Wilkie Denford, 78, breached the trust of the parents of two boys by molesting them over an 18-month period from when they were around 13 years old, it is alleged.
On one occasion it is claimed he got into a bath with one of the boys while aroused.
On another he allegedly pressed himself up against a boy intimately with the words: “How nice it is to have a cuddle.”
Hove Crown Court heard that one time Denford, who was the vicar at St John the Evangelist Church in Burgess Hill, West Sussex, abused one of the boys aided by organist Michael Mytton, 68.
Following a meal at a restaurant in Cuckfield, Denford asked Mytton to pull his Jaguar over into a layby where he went on to molest the “inconsolable” boy on the back seat, jurors heard.
Prosecutor Marcus Fletcher said that one of the two boys recalled reporting the abuse to a vicar - but nothing was done.
Opening the Crown's case, Mr Fletcher told the jury of eight women and four men: “As the boy put it, as a vicar everything is meant to be right, honest and reliable.
“We say that's not so, and we say that Denford used his position in the church to both groom and abuse these young boys, hiding behind his cassock.
“Over a period of time, he sought to gain their trust and, put simply, he was grooming them.”
In the end, it was not until last year that police were alerted after one of the boys, now in their late 30s, found out that Denford was still in contact with children.
Through police investigation, the name of a third boy emerged and he disclosed that he suffered abuse at the hands of Mytton from around 1990 to 1994 when he was aged 10 or 11, the court was told.
Mr Fletcher told jurors: “Among other things this boy tells us about was a dinner party where he was Michael Mytton's 'plus one'. The vicar, Mr Denford, was there and he thinks it was at his house.”
On another occasion, Mytton, who was an organist and choirmaster, was allegedly heard to say to Denford, “Bugger off, (this boy) is mine, you've got (the other boy) downstairs.
“What that shows is that there was an understanding between Mr Denford and Mr Mytton that they would talk about young men in their company.
“They obviously know something about each other's interests.”
The boy Mytton is alleged to have abused told investigators that he would suck his nipples, and refer to them as Mr Lefty and Mr Righty.
Mr Fletcher added: “Mytton also touched the boy's penis on numerous occasions and made it clear that he wanted sex with him, saying, 'If I could just f*** you once'.
“Mytton would buy him gifts, all with one aim in mind - to abuse him.”
Mr Fletcher said: "Many years later one of the boys discovered that Keith Wilkie Denford was back at the church and again had contact with children.
"On September 7 last year, he contacted the police and said that Father Wilkie, as he was known, abused him and another boy all those years ago.
"Thereafter (the victims) were interviewed by specialist police officers and gave an account of the abuse that they were subjected to. One of the boys recalled it occurred over an 18-month period when they were around 13 years of age.
"He recalled an event at Keith Wilkie Denford's house when he and the other boy were asked to be waiters for guests invited for a meal.
"The guests were mainly male and comments were made about how lucky Keith Wilkie Denford was, and it was described as a sexually charged event.
"After the guests had gone, the boys were given alcohol and a bath."
Denford got into the bath while aroused and started touching one of the boys' intimately, jurors heard.
"This was the boy's first sexual experience - and it was with a vicar," said Mr Fletcher.
"This was extremely upsetting and confusing for a young boy in those circumstances."
It was arranged that the boys would stay the night and "unusually" were given separate bedrooms.
Mr Fletcher said: "No doubt they were given separate rooms to allow Denford easier access to them and so that they wouldn't be able to corroborate.
"Neither boy would, in effect, witness what happened to the other."
When one of the boys was in his room, Denford allegedly walked in naked while aroused and got in to bed with him before pressing himself up against his body.
"It seems it stopped there and didn't go any further," Mr Fletcher said.
Both the boys allegedly abused by Denford have since sought counselling and disclosed that it was a different era when it was felt the claims wouldn't be believed, he added.
In a police interview after being arrested, Denford told officers the allegations were "lies, absolute lies" and described the claims as "complete fantasy".
Mytton told police that he was "not really" attracted to children. But when pressed, Mr Fletcher said he told officers: "They are lovely...there is so much beauty...as long as you don't let it take over."
Concluding his opening speech, Mr Fletcher went on: "We say that both these defendants committed gross breaches of trust.
"The Crown's case is that it beggars belief that three men individually would independently fabricate similar allegations against these two defendants.
"We say that their accounts are individually compelling and taken together give a good account of the methods used to groom these boys."
Denford, of Broad Reach Mews, Shoreham-by-Sea, denies four counts of indecent assault against two boys between January 1987 and January 1990.
Mytton, of South Road, East Chiltington, East Sussex, denies one count of aiding and abetting indecent assault and five counts of indecent assault against two boys between January 1987 and September 1994.
The case continues.