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Choirmaster abused 14 boys 'hundreds of times' leaving them 'terrified'

A former choirmaster sexually abused 14 boys at churches in the North West, leaving them terrified.

Richard Owen, also known as Franklyn Stanowski, met the children after they joined the choir at churches in Winsford, Knutsford and Altrincham. In private rooms and out of sight of adults, he told them to remove their trousers to be struck on the buttocks for his own sexual gratification.

The offences occurred between 1968 and 1998 when the boys were aged under 16. The 70-year-old, from Winsford, admitted to 27 offences involving indecent assault of underage boys and was sentenced to 12 years at Chester Crown Court on Friday, September 30.

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Owen would often offer to take the boys, who are now aged between 38 and 63, to church in his car and provided some of them with extra tuition as well as take them on trips away. They would be subjected to the abuse such as acts of discipline with Owen telling them they "had been naughty".

Afterwards he would give them money, hand over sweets, alcohol or take them out for meals. On occasions he would be seen standing outside their homes, watching and waiting for them.

The abuse first began in Winsford involving a boy until Owen left and began working in Knutsford until 1980. During this time a nine-year-old boy caught his attention as well as a further three boys.

In the late 1980s Owen was a choirmaster in Altrincham and remained in this role until 1998. As part of his work he also volunteered at a local primary school teaching the children to sing as well as attending school trips to recruit the boys to join the choir.

It is during this time that he abused numerous boys, with hundreds of occurrences taking place over many years. The abuse left the boys terrified and scared. It led them to either withdraw from the choir, or leave the area in which they lived to get away from him. In some cases, his victims believed his actions were normal.

Cheshire Constabulary’s investigation into Owen’s crimes began following a "past cases review" into allegations of sexual abuse, which was commissioned by the Church of England. Owen was arrested on March 25, 2020, and charged in January 2022.

On sentencing Judge Leeming still considered Owen a dangerous offender and a risk to young boys.

Detective Inspector Dave Hutcheon, of Cheshire Constabulary’s major investigation teams, said: “Owen preyed on young and innocent children betraying their trust for his own sexual gratification while also becoming infatuated and obsessed with them. The decades of abuse and his behaviour deeply affected so many boys in many ways and continued into their adulthood.

“The investigation has been long and, at times, difficult in order to identify and speak to those who suffered Owen’s abuse. Investigations like these carry an important message – if you have been a victim of abuse it doesn’t matter how long ago it took place, what matters is the courage to come forward and talk about it.

“These men have shown that courage to speak about their ordeal more than 50 years later to ensure Owen is held accountable for what he did."

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse please contact Cheshire Constabulary on 101 or visit our website. Information can also be given anonymously by contacting Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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