Rapist claims he was framed

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A pensioner found guilty of horrific child sex offences is battling to clear his name - claiming his victims were “money motivated” and concoted their complaints to sell their story to a women’s magazine.

Benjamin French Rodgers (75), of Hagbeach Gate, Whaplode, has always denied raping one young girl and sexually abusing another but was convicted by a jury last year.

The former lorry driver was caged for 19 years at Lincoln Crown Court last September after he was found guilty of three counts of rape and six indecent assaults. The jury acquitted him of other alleged counts of sexual abuse.

But top judges at London’s Court of Appeal have now adjourned a conviction challenge by Rodgers – to allow his lawyers time to gather evidence in support of his untested claims he was framed by his victims.

Lord Justice Davis said Rodgers was alleged to have raped and molested a girl, putting his hand into her pants, while she was under the age of 15 in the 1970s. He was also accused of targeting a girl under the age of 11 in the early 2000s.

His barrister, Michael Cranmer-Brown, already has permission to argue before the Appeal Court that the women’s evidence was contaminated by discussions they allegedly had about the case before Rodgers’ trial.

But the barrister also now alleges that the pair were “money motivated” to fabricate their accounts and sold their story to a women’s magazine for £1,000.

The barrister said there was a “significant dissimilarity” between their evidence at trial and the accounts printed in the article, purportedly written by the women, months later.

He said the magazine’s editor had so far declined to reveal who initiated the story but that Rodgers’ legal team would demand full disclosure from the publication if given permission to present fresh evidence to the court.

Mr Cranmer-Brown also pointed to large claims they had lodged with the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority since the trial.

Lord Justice Davis, sitting with Mrs Justice Swift and Mr Justice Griffith Williams, said the issues raised gave the court “pause for thought” and might affect the “safety” of the jury’s verdicts.

He said: “We have reflected on all these matters raised in the fresh grounds. With some hesitation, we do think this does give cause for further investigation and consideration by the court.

“If this fresh material is admitted as relevant – and it is an ‘if’ – then it might well bear on the issues that have been put forward in the grounds of appeal on which leave (to appeal) has been granted.”

The judge adjourned the hearing so that the fresh evidence can be brought before the court and the full appeal heard at a later date.