Officials at a Bengaluru orphanage are in a state of shock after learning that a British citizen the organisation had hosted three years ago was accused in several cases of sexual assault on children in south Asian countries.
Richard Huckle, the 30-year-old British citizen, was on Monday sentenced to life by a UK court with a minimum term of 25 years after he pleaded guilty to 71 counts of child sex offences. He had been arrested from Kent in southeast England in December 2014 as he returned home from Malaysia to spend Christmas with his parents.
Huckle — who had warmed his way into numerous child-care homes in many countries, including Malaysia, Cambodia and India, by claiming to be a photographer and videographer — spent two days at the New Hope for Children Orphanage in Hennur, east Bengaluru.
During his two days at the orphanage in July 2013, Huckle was constantly under the watch of caretakers and no untoward incidents occurred, the head of New Hope for Children Orphanage Pastor George Fernandes said when contacted.
“I am in a state of shock since learning about the crimes committed by Huckle. I thank God that nothing had happened during his time at our orphanage,” Fernandes said.
Huckle contacted the orphanage through e-mail in 2013, saying he wanted to meet the children there. “He said he would teach the children photography,’’ said Fernandes.
“We accepted his request because he claimed to be a student from England studying in Malaysia. He arrived in Bengaluru in July 2013. We brought him to the orphanage and held a welcome party. A guest room located 2.5 km from the orphanage was arranged for him. The next day, he visited the orphanage and interacted with our staff and conducted a class on photography. He was not allowed at any point of time to meet the children alone. He made a documentary about our orphanage and left two days later,” said Fernandes.
Huckle did not display any suspicious behaviour during his stay, he said. “He was silent and spoke only about photography… He did not communicate with me after his visit. I sent him a message on Facebook but he did not respond. I had forgotten about him until I was informed last Thursday about his involvement in crimes against children,’’ said Fernandes.
Huckle reportedly told staff at the New Hope for Children Orphanage that he had come to Bengaluru after visiting orphanages in Hubli, Vellore and Chennai.
In an effort to clear the air about Huckle’s visit, The New Hope for Children Orphanage put out a message on its official Facebook page on Saturday. “…Praise God that Huckle was at no time allowed to be around any of the children in India without supervision. Pastor George assures us that none of the children in India could have been harmed,” the post said.