A children’s magician is on trial for raping or assaulting 27 boys and girls after befriending their families and wowing them with his tricks as a means to find time alone with his victims.
Parents and several victims attended the trial behind closed doors at the criminal court on Friday in Rennes, Brittany.
Sébastien C, whose surname has not been revealed by French media, stands charged with “aggravate rape and sexual assault and corruption of minors” on victims aged between three and 13.
The magician and balloon twister has a previous conviction for molesting a minor and should not have been able to practice a profession in contact with children.
Most were children of parents he had befriended. Some viewed him almost as “a member of the family”, a source close to the case told BFMTV, a French news source. “At first sight, butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth.”
“We tell our youngest not to accept sweets from strangers but we don’t tell them to beware of people they know,” one 32-year-old mother known only as Sophie, told Le Parisien. Her daughter is among the alleged victims of a man her mother regarded as “her best friend” and “brother” who was always “pleasant, sociable and joyful”.
Her lawyer, Gwendoline Tenier, said his “operating mode” was always the same.
“He entered families’ intimacy, got himself invited to sleep over because he had a magic show or to save hotel costs. He spent a huge amount of time with the children, lent them his telephone to keep them occupied while he committed his acts, and offered them presents,” she said.
Some of his victims were abused just once, others over several years, the court was due to hear.
“Everyone loved him so I thought no one would believe me,” Pauline (not her real name), a civil plaintiff, told Le Parisien. “I shut all that in a case far away in my mind.”
Plaintiffs are demanding why the courts were not quicker in following up on a 2014 complaint by the parents of a three-year-old who said he had locked her in the bathroom during an in-house magic show and molested her.
At that time, he was banned from working with children following a 10-month suspended sentence and three years of treatment for molesting a nine-year-old girl in 2011.
“The judge at the time had asked for a proper investigation yet the investigation stopped there. We don’t understand why,” said a source close to the inquiry.
Finally in 2017, when police started gathering testimonies, the accused turned himself in to police and confessed to molesting 10 minors, but not rape.
Describing himself as a “paedophile”, he said he was unable to keep in check “uncontrollable urges”.
He faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
The trial continues.