Former TV weatherman Fred Talbot was back at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court this morning for his trial which is now entering its third week.
The 65 year-old has been accused of sexually abusing five teenage boys in his previous career as a teacher at Altrincham Grammar school for boys between the late ‘60s and early ‘80s. He denies all charges.
The first defence witness – a former Biology student of Mr Talbot in the ‘70s – recalled how discipline at the school was “very harsh” back then. Mr Talbot, however, was “considerably relaxed. He used humour and his own personality to get the behaviour he needed in class”, the court heard.
Now 54, the witness said he “would cheekily ask him for a lift home from school” at the end of the day. It became obvious to Mr Talbot that “I’d be waiting by the science block for a lift home”. The ex-teacher habitually dropped him to his house for two years during which nothing untoward happened.
The witness also visited Mr Talbot’s home, which was adjacent to his, “dozens of times” where “nothing at all” inappropriate happened.
When asked earlier by the defence barrister Suzanne Goddard if back then he knew of Mr Talbot’s sexuality, the witness responded, “In all boys’ schools, rumours abound about everybody. I think we did speculate about all our teachers…There was a consensus that Fred was probably gay.”
The second defence witness of the day was also a former pupil at Altrincham Grammar School for boys. From the witness box, he gave evidence on a school trip which he recalls to have been on a “narrow boat along part of the Cheshire ring”. Having been at the school between 1972 and 1977, he told the jury he did not recall Mr Talbot buying any of the pupils any alcohol as alleged by the complainants in the case. “Nothing untoward happened,” he said in response to the barge-trip sexual allegations against the ex-teacher.
After lunch, the last defence witness of the entire case spoke to the court via a videolink from the USA. Having been taught Biology at Altrincham Grammar by Mr Talbot during the mid-to-late ‘70s, the former pupil said Mr Talbot “taught us in a very calm, professional and respectful manner”. He challenged the evidence of Stone Roses’ frontman Ian Brown who alleged that Mr Talbot had given his students “masturbation homework” and showed them a gay pornographic film as part of sexual education. The witness told the court, “No, not at all. That did not happen”.
The prosecutor Neil Usher began his closing speech which lasted an hour. Mr Usher highlighted the fact that Fred Talbot “perfectly knew about the unspoken trust between teacher and parent” and “those children ought to have been safe with him.”
“Not only did he abuse this trust, he violated it again and again. He did so not because he is a monster, but because he is a weak and selfish man who would rather give in to his sexual urges towards teenage boys rather than control his feelings, control his words, and most importantly, control his actions”, Mr Usher told the jury.
Moments later the prosecutor said, “He chose time and time again to put his hands on the genitals of those vulnerable, sometimes confused teenage boys – not remotely caring what trauma it might cause those teenage boys at a delicate time of life when they were just coming to terms with their sexuality”.
Mr Usher said the complainants and witnesses could not all suffer from the same condition of “misremembering” due to the passage of time as the defence maintains. He quoted one of the complainants own words: “You may forget the trivial things but you don’t forget the important things.” He concluded his speech by saying that the evidence against Fred Talbot is “overwhelming”.
The defence begins its final speech tomorrow morning which is expected to last about an hour and 20 minutes.
TNT News Yasin Chinembiri