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Neil McKenna, from Tunbridge Wells, convicted of raping boy

A former soccer coach who preyed on young boys to satisfy his lust is behind bars after being convicted of historic sex abuse offences.

Neil McKenna vehemently denied the charges and called his son as a character witness.

But a jury convicted the 70-year-old father, of Barnetts Close, Tunbridge Wells, of 17 offences, including multiple rape.

Neil McKenna
Neil McKenna

Judge Charles Macdonald QC remanded him in custody and will pass sentence on November 17.

He said he was likely to impose jail in double figures and was considering an extended sentence on the grounds of dangerousness.

The prosecution alleged McKenna raped one boy and molested four others in offences dating back almost 40 years.

Prosecutor Christopher May said McKenna used his position as a coach to gain the boys’ trust.

“Over a period of time he then took advantage of the opportunity afforded to him to abuse them sexually,” he told Maidstone Crown Court.

McKenna coached teams in Headcorn, High Brooms, Southborough and Cranbrook.

Mr May said there was a previous investigation in the mid-1990s into allegations by two boys of sexual abuse.

McKenna, who had also lived in Hopes Road, Cranbrook, made denials when arrested and no charges were brought.

He gave an interview at the time claiming it was all a witch hunt.

Judge Charles Macdonald QC
Judge Charles Macdonald QC

But said Mr May: “The earlier complaints have been reconsidered in the light of further disclosures which have been made by others who have also come forward to say they were sexually abused by him.”

The three others - now adults - came forward in 2012.

Mr May said McKenna, who worked as a swimming pool attendant at Tenterden Leisure Centre, abused the boys aged eight to 15 over a period of 30 years from 1976.

“There is absolutely no way I would be standing here now if I felt my dad was capable of that” - Jamie McKenna

McKenna committed some of the offences when he was a sports instructor at Price Waterhouse in London where there was a swimming pool.

Mr May said McKenna walked into a cubicle naked while a boy was getting changed and rubbed up against him.

McKenna, who had a flower shop in St John’s Road, Tunbridge Wells, denied six charges of rape, 17 of indecent assault on a male and one of indecency with a child between 1976 and 2006.

He was convicted of four offences of rape, 12 of indecent assault and one of indecency with a child.

His son Jamie McKenna said of the accusations when giving evidence: “There is absolutely no way I would be standing here now if I felt my dad was capable of that.”

Mr McKenna described his father as “a very tactile man”.

He added: “That is what he does and that is what he offers. He has put himself in a very vulnerable position in doing that. I know what kind of man he is.”

He was aware of the serious sexual allegations, he said, but had nothing but fond memories of his father and family life as a child.

“He is very playful, very engaging, very inventive,” Mr McKenna continued.

His parents grew apart and divorced and the family unit changed.

The case was heard at Maidstone Crown Court
The case was heard at Maidstone Crown Court

He said of his father: “He is eccentric, gregarious and outgoing. He is a natural born performer in everyday life.

“I would describe him as like Peter Pan. He has got an inner child that beats very strongly. He enjoys the company of young people. He always has done.

“Our house was never tidy because everyone came to our house. That was where the fun was.”

Asked if it ever concerned him, Mr McKenna replied: “Concern is the wrong word. He found himself having friendships with young people.

“I can completely understand why that looks abnormal, because it is not the norm. I would come home and it would be like a youth club.

“At no point did I every feel there was anything untoward. There was a revolving door youth club policy. I have never ever had any concerns about my dad.

“He is a very warmhearted giving man. He wants to heal the world.”

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