A teacher picked a 15-year-old boy up from outside his school, drove him to “the middle of nowhere” and tried to have sex with him, a court has heard.

Teacher Edwin John Downing is on trial at the High Court in Auckland. He has denied 13 charges, including sexual violation, sexual conduct with a young person and sexually grooming a young person.

Published in Stuff

The police interview of one of the two complainants was recorded on DVD and on Monday was played to the court.

The boy told the police he had met a man on the gay dating app Grindr.

“He asked how old I was. I didn’t really want to tell him at first,” the boy said in his interview.

“I didn’t tell my age but told him I was still in school … I eventually told him I was 15 and he said that was OK.”

The boy said the man offered him $200 to “do sexual stuff”.

The man also wanted their communication kept a secret, the court heard.

“He said not to tell anyone because he said he’d be in lots of trouble.”

Sometime later, the man picked the boy up from school in his car. The man, who called himself Eddie, told the boy he was a geography teacher and he had a wife, but didn’t love her, the boy told the police.

He said the man touched him and drove him to a rural road in south Auckland.

“I never told him to stop because I was scared.”

He said the man began touching himself and tried to convince the boy to give him oral sex. When the boy refused, the man said he would take him home.

The day after the incident in the car, the boy said he noticed the man’s car parked outside his school and pointed it out to a friend. They took a photo of the licence plate.

He told a teacher and the police were eventually called. He also told his father, the court heard.

Earlier, Crown prosecutor Luke Radich opened the case for the Crown, telling the jury that from the outside Downing lived a “normal life” with his wife and son.

But Radich said Downing was also meeting school boys using a dating app for gay and bisexual men.

“He admits he had affairs … whatever you think of that, it is not a crime. What makes it a crime is their age and what he did to them.”

Radich said Downing was interviewed by the police about his interactions with the 15-year-old boy.

In the interview, Downing admitted to the police that he had shown the boy his penis in the video call and picked him up in his car, but said nothing sexual had happened.

“I suggest to you that it is not remotely truthful,” Radich said.

The prosecutor said as part of the police investigation, officers received text messages sent to and from Downing’s phone. Some messages were of a sexual nature and sent to a person later identified as a 13-year-old boy.

The boy told the police that he had told Downing he was 15 and that Downing was “cool with that”.

Radich said the boy’s family was struggling to make ends meet and the boy had accepted money from Downing in exchange for sex.

On one occasion, Downing drove the boy to a public toilet in the Waikato region, the court heard.

Radich said the boy’s bank records support his evidence that Downing had been paying him for sex.

“There are also text messages. Some are strongly suggestive that this was more than a platonic relationship between a 40-year-old man and a 13-year-old boy.”

Downing’s lawyer, Peter Kaye, made a short opening on his client’s behalf, telling the jurors his client was bisexual.

“There are no oohs and aahs about that. That is the position.”

He said his client had met with the boys but “the main bone of contention” would be his client’s knowledge that the boys were under the age of 16.

He told the jurors that they would also have to determine, beyond reasonable doubt, that the sexual acts actually took place.

The trial, before Justice Neil Campbell and a jury, is expected to take two weeks.

Where to get help for sexual violence

Rape Crisis 0800 88 33 00, click link for local helplines.

Victim Support 0800 842 846, text 4334, webchat safetotalk.nz or email support@safetotalk.nz.

The Harbour Online support and information for people affected by sexual abuse.

Women’s Refuge 0800 733 843 (females only).

Male Survivors Aotearoa Helplines across NZ, click to find out more (males only).

If you or someone else is in immediate danger, call 111.

By Edward Gay
Published in Stuff
09 Nov 2020