“UP until the last year, I’d sworn I’d go to the grave with this secret, because I didn’t want my parents to find out.”
Sitting in an Aylesbury meeting room, a man abused by cricket club sex predator Leslie Smith cut a forlorn figure as he looked over the pages of witness statements he prepared for police.
Just 16 when Smith first preyed on him in an overnight train to Scotland, the former junior player would be haunted by his experiences for more than two decades, culminating in a breakdown in 2009.
It was a near suicide which prompted him to come forward to the police, forcing him to relive the painful memories he had desperately hoped to forget.
Now aged 43, he recalled: “It got to the point where I thought I was either going to end up killing myself and trying to seek justice from beyond the grave by leaving letters to the police, or I’d have to do it face to face.
“I’m comfortable saying it was life or death, and luckily for me life won.”
The victim, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was recruited by Smith to join Wendover Cricket Club at the age of 12 after he was spotted playing for his school.
From the age of 13, he was groomed by his coach, regularly being plied with alcohol and shown hardcore pornography at Smith’s home.
He said: “Winter nets and summer matches were just a blur of cider and porn from 1982 to 1985.
“I don’t remember much else of my childhood from that time.”
In 1985, with his parents believing he was on a group trip, the teenager, then 16, was assaulted by Smith on an overnight train to Scotland.
He said: “I think from that moment on I was just so ashamed and felt so dirty.
“That first night as he left my compartment he said: ‘If you tell anyone about this, I’ll kill myself’.
“That’s a lot to hang on a young kid.
“I didn’t feel like I had anyone to turn to. Being abused drives you even further into isolation, and I had a very unhappy two years after that.”
On the surface, Smith was a charming raconteur, regularly seen holding court at the cricket club and in the pubs around Wendover.
His victim said few would ever suspect the depravity bubbling beneath the surface – and for years he feared he would not be believed if he spoke up.
“These people are masters of deception,” he stated.
“He even befriended my parents. They were devastated when I told them last year.
“He has deceived everybody, even to this day there are people that couldn’t possibly believe this of their cricketing mentor.
“But they don’t have to take it from me, he himself pleaded guilty.”
Plagued by years of depression caused by Smith’s ‘warped and twisted’ behaviour, the former junior player said he still feels deep anger towards his tormentor, stating: “To be honest, I’m quite a mild mannered man, I’m not easily angered, but I hope he rots in hell.”
He stated: “I have to live with it every day.
“He perverted my childhood and exposed me to hardcore porn at a very early age.
“I lost my innocence and was deprived of a normal healthy childhood. I’ve been in and out of counselling and therapy for more years than I care to remember.”
The victim said he was pleased with the reaction he got from police, and said he was ‘over the moon’ when the Crown Prosecution Service said it had enough evidence to charge Smith.
“This shows that people should not suffer in silence,” the victim stated.
He was not in court to see Smith sentenced to 18 months behind bars, but was pleased to receive the telephone call from police.
“I’m delighted he’s got a custodial sentence.
“He’s caused me nearly 30 years of hurt and pain and suffering.
“It got to the point where I didn’t care if I lived or died. I was having suicidal thoughts and vivid dreams of ending my life.
“I nearly drowned myself while I was on holiday in Spain, I just didn’t care whether I carried on living or not.”
He said he had thought long and hard about coming forward, but felt it was something he had to do.
“You don’t choose the time that you come forward, it chooses you,” Smith’s victim stated.
“The shame is the thing that kills you, and stops you doing anything about it.
“Not only do you have to admit it to yourself, but you have to start admitting it to other people.
“But the help’s out there, the police were brilliant, and I’ve had some great support from counselling services.
“I’ve got a lot of stored up psychological problems and demons which I need to exorcise, and I’ve only just started that.
“But I think getting a sense of justice has definitely helped.”
And he continued: “I know I’ve still got a long way to go in recovery.
“But there is no need to be ashamed, there is no need to live in fear. Not any more.
“I am a victim no longer. I am a survivor.
“My message to anyone out there who has experienced any sort of abuse is please don’t suffer in silence. You can get expert help.”
Det Sgt Joe Banfield, of the Child Abuse Investigation Unit based in Aylesbury, said: “Thames Valley Police will always carry out a full and thorough investigation when allegations such as this are made, even when the offences were committed some time ago.
“The victim showed great bravery in coming forward and disclosing the abuse he suffered.
“The fact Leslie Smith has admitted two counts of indecent assault at least means the victim will not have to relive his ordeal in court.”