By IAN GARLAND –
One of Britain’s most senior Buddhist monks is accused of carrying out a string of sex attacks on two young girls aged under 10.
The Venerable Pahalagama Somaratana, 66, is facing nine counts of rape, indecent assault and sexual assault.
One girl claims Somaratana abused her in the shrine room of Croydon Temple – where he has been chief monk for the past 31 years.
The attacks are alleged to have taken place on one victim in Chiswick, London during the summer of 1978.
Somaratana appeared at Isleworth Crown Court last week to deny all charges against him.
The Sri Lankan-born monk told the court he was the victim of mistaken identity.
Prosecuting Richard Merz told the court the first victim, who was nine in 1978, had been enticed into the monk’s room with fruit Polo sweets and told to sit on his lap.
Later, he told the court, Ven Somaratana cornered her in the temple shrine and raped her.
He said: ‘You used to see her in the corridor downstairs and ask her upstairs.
Three times this happened, three times. The victim says the person who did this to her in the shrine rooms was someone who gave her the fruit Polos.’
Mr Merz added the second victim, who was aged between nine and 10 during the alleged attacks in 1984 and 85, was also enticed into his room with sweets at the temple in Selsdon, South Croydon, which he founded in 1981.
He said: ‘She says she was attacked by you in your room.’
The second victim only recalled the assaults during hypnotherapy sessions she underwent as an adult in 2009.
Somaratana denies the charges.
He suggested in court that another, unidentified, monk could have been responsible for raping the first victim.
And insisted it would have been impossible to carry out attacks in either his temple room or the shrine – because there was little privacy and the temple was always occupied by worshippers.
He said: ‘There are so many people coming from 9am to 9pm they regularly go to the shrine room.’
The trial is expected to last three weeks.
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