A former pastor who told six female members of his congregation he would "rid them of evil spirits" before sexually abusing them in his church's prayer room has been sentenced to 21 years in prison.
John Wilson, 70, was found guilty of assaulting his victims during "deliverance" sessions at a Pentecostal church in Keighley, West Yorkshire over a 26-year period, from 1984 to 2010, the Metro reports. In total, he was charged with 14 counts of indecent assault, three of conspiracy to commit indecent assault and one of sexual assault following a six-week trial.
His wife, Mary, was also found guilty of helping him carry out the crimes and received a suspended sentence.
After handing down the sentence last week, Wilson, Judge David Hatton QC referenced Jesus' words on the Sermon on the Mount: "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them."
"During the course of six weeks this jury came to know you by your fruit and concluded you are false prophets and indeed wolves in sheep's clothing," he said. "You sexually assaulted women who attended your church for worship, the majority of which were vulnerable. You brainwashed them into the belief that they were possessed of spirits at that heart of their problems and their extraction would assist them.
According to the MailOnline, one of Wilson's victims attended the sentencing and read her victim impact statement in person.
After the abuse, she said she lost her "faith and identity" and felt like she wasn't "worth the air" she breathed.
"'Never in a million years did I ever think what happened in Keighley would come out," she said. "The effects of what you did and said to me have been long-lasting."
Still, she forgave Wilson, stating, "Who am I not to forgive you? My hope and prayer for you is that you will come back in the right way and let God's mercy rewrite your life."
According to statements from other victims, many of the women experienced anxiety, flashbacks and nightmares as a result of the attacks and were forced to undergo years of counseling and therapy.
Wilson's "method of ridding the spirits" involved the inappropriate "touching of these women," the judge said.
"A screen of deceit concealed your motive," he continued. "None of these women were remotely cured. The three you abused frequently are likely to retain metaphorical scars for the rest of their lives. They are to be commended for exposing you as the charlatan you are and have been found to be."
Det Con Jodie Hayes, of the Bradford District Safeguarding Unit, told the BBC she hoped the outcome would bring some closure to the victims.
She said: "The victims in this case were vulnerable people who had turned to the Wilsons for help.
"They put their trust in them hoping for comfort and guidance but were taken advantage of and sexually abused."