‘Cult leader’ avoids jail despite sexual assault

The trial was heard at Falkirk Sheriff Court. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

The trial was heard at Falkirk Sheriff Court. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

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A FORMER university lecturer who founded his own church and sexually molested members of his flock avoided jail today after a sheriff said he had “already suffered a spectacular fall from grace”.

Walter Masocha, who called himself “The Prophet”, was made subject to a community payback order with the condition that he performs 250 hours unpaid work, and placed on supervision and the sex offenders’ register for 12 months.

There are many cases where the gravity of the offences are such that a custodial sentence is inevitable. Without in any way seeking to downplay the severity of the offences in this case, my view is that this is not the position here

Sheriff Kenneth McGowan

Masocha, 51, “Archbishop” of the Stirling-based Agape for All Nations Church, who put his hand down the trousers of a schoolgirl saying he was trying to remove demons, was assessed by social workers as at “moderate risk” of re-offending.

Masocha, who also groped a young deaconess while he was supposed to be praying for a problem she had with her stomach, was told by Sheriff Kenneth McGowan that his conduct must have left his victims “hurt and bewildered”.

The sheriff said: “The evidence was that you touched each of the complainers inappropriately on several occasions. At the time they were both members of a church of which you were leader. You held a position of trust which you abused, and a further aggravating factor in relation to one of the victims is her relatively young age.

“Dealing with the question of harm, the complainers must have been left hurt and bewildered by your conduct, at the time it happened and thereafter.”

Sheriff McGowan said that the law required courts only to impose custodial sentences when no other disposal was appropriate.

He said: “There are many cases where the gravity of the offences are such that a custodial sentence is inevitable. Without in any way seeking to downplay the severity of the offences in this case, my view is that this is not the position here. The criminal justice social work report has assessed you as suitable for a community-based disposal, and in addition you have already suffered a spectacular fall from grace.”

The sheriff added that Masocha was otherwise of good character.

“It’s very clear from references submitted on your behalf that you have carried out charitable and other works and are respected for that,” he said.

Masocha, in a hand-made suit with velvet collar, stood head bowed in the dock at Falkirk Sheriff Court as the sheriff spoke.

On the public benches his wife Judith - styled The Prophetess within the church - appeared expressionless.

Masocha, who used to teach at Stirling University, appeared for sentence after being found guilty of sexually assaulting the deaconess and sexually touching the schoolgirl after a six day trial in April.

Jurors, who took less than half an hour to reach their verdicts, had heard that schoolgirl, aged 15, was left in tears after Masocha “pinged” her knicker-elastic and pinched her bottom claiming she had demons in her pants.

The deaconess, a 32-year-old mother-of-four, was also told that The Prophet had been “trying to remove ‘something’ from her genitals”.

Both were targeted between April 2012 and January 2014 at Masocha’s £500,000 seven-bedroom mansion, Coseyneuk House, near Stirling, where the Zimbabwe-born churchman received a steady stream of followers.

During the trial, the schoolgirl, now 16, said she regarded Masocha as her “spiritual father”, and like many people in the church called him “Dad”.

She said in late 2013 she was with other girls in an upstairs games room when Masocha came in and waved her over.

She said: “He placed his hand round my lower back, and moved his hand down until he got to my underwear, and he sort of pinged my underwear.

“He repeatedly pinged my underwear, ran his hand down my bottom, and grabbed and pinched my bottom.”

The Stirlingshire secondary school pupil said she felt violated and later asked Masocha why he had done it. He replied that he had seen “demons and things that shouldn’t be there” in her pants and he was clearing them away.

She broke into tears because she thought she had been bad without realising.

Masocha said he would pray to remove the “demons” and left the room.

In another incident, when she was 13 or 14, she said Masocha had been sitting down at his home, very close to her, advising her about school when he suddenly said, “You’ll always be mine”, and kissed her on the lips.

She said at the time she was happy, because members of the church had been taught that anything they received from Masocha was a blessing from God, but now she felt disgusted.

The deaconess said Masocha had hugged her “very intimately”, caressing her back and kissing her round the neck, and saying “receive my love”. She said she could feel his manhood against her.

On another occasion said she had once gone to his office for prayer with a stomach complaint.

She said: “He said he was going to pray it away. He touched my tummy, then his hand went down my body, onto my private parts.”

Weeping, she said: “It was like he was feeling me. I was so shocked. At that time I saw him as somebody who could never do any wrong, because that was what he used to teach us.

“He used to teach us his hugs were anointed.”

She told her husband, a devoted member of the church, from whom she has since separated, told her: “The Prophet is seeing something in your genitals that needs to be removed, so he was removing that.”

The woman, a trained nurse, later fled her matrimonial home with her children, and spoke about what had happened to her brother, and others.

She said: “Suddenly, my eyes were opened.”

She began an online blog to expose the activities of the church, which she called “a cult”.

In other incidents, she described how as part of her involvement with the church, she had to undergo an all-night “deliverance” after her husband told her she had to be delivered from demons, and shortly before she left the organisation for good, church members called an ambulance to a service she was attending in England and tried to get her sectioned under the Mental Health Act. Paramedics declined to act, concluding the call had been an “act of public humiliation”.

Defence advocate John Scullion QC said Masocha had since resigned from “active participation in the church” and members of the congregation were “no longer welcomed” at Cosyneuk House, which had reverted to the role of a family home.

Outside court, Cindy Martin, a former pastor at Agape, hit out at the fact Masocha was not jailed.

She said: “It’s like a slap in the face for female members of the church.”

She said claimed Masocha was still active in the church, and had been at a church event in St Andrews, Fife, only on Sunday “lapping up adulation”.

Masocha himself refused to comment after the hearing.

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