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Saturday, 30 August 2014

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Former Cumbrian Olympics coach accused of rape

An Olympic canoe coach raped and sexually abused a young girl for two years, a court has heard.

Peter Lawler, 71, who lives near Cockermouth, competed for Great Britain in three Olympics, reaching the semi-finals in two.

Lawler, who uses a wheelchair after becoming paraplegic following a riding accident, allegedly committed the offences in the late 1980s while he was a coach at a canoe club in Surrey.

The father-of-two from High Lorton is said to have committed the offences at a flat he had in Weybridge, his ex-wife’s home in Guildford as well as at an hotel in Nottingham.

The jury heard that the abuse began when the defendant was coaching canoeists for the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.

He started forcing his attentions on the girl who was under 16, after gaining her trust and that of her parents.

Guildford Crown Court was told the girl blamed the abuse for sending her into a downward spiral of drink, drugs and self-harming.

The alleged victim said the defendant had ruined her life.

“He abused my trust and my parents’ trust. I hate him,” she said.

The girl, now in her 30s, said she had been too afraid to reject Lawler’s advances,

Lawler denies two offences of rape, two of indecency with a child and one of indecent assault.

Lawler reached semi-finals in 1,000 metre kayak events at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, in Mexico City in 1968 and in the same event in 1972 at Munich.

Ruby Selva, prosecuting, said, Lawler took the girl under his wing.

She said it started when he got her to take her clothes off and then commit a sex act.

Ms Selva said the abuse progressed to intercourse between the defendant and the alleged victim.

Ms Selva said that the complainant’s ordeal had taken a heavy toll leading to “significant physical and mental decline” in the woman.

The girl said: “I started smoking, drinking and taking drugs. I also began self-harming. I would cut myself and burn myself with cigarettes.”

The trial continues.

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