Upendo paedophile faces lengthy jail term in the US
An American was on Friday found guilty of sexually abusing seven minors at a children’s home in Kiambu County.
Matthew Lane Durham, 20, was convicted by a court in Oklahoma, United States, after a trial that lasted six and a half days.
He had been accused in 17 cases of illicit sexual conduct, but the jury confirmed only seven counts of molesting children at the Upendo Children’s Home. He worked as a volunteer at the facility between 2012 and 2014.
Durham now faces up to 210 years in prison, according to a dispatch from the office of the US attorney Sanford Coats of the Western District of Oklahoma.
“At sentencing, Durham faces up to 30 years in prison for each of the guilty counts. A sentencing date will be set by the court . . . He was remanded to the custody of the US marshals,” it states.
The Associated Press reported that his victims were girls aged between five and 15 and a 12-year-old boy.
Durham joins a growing list of foreigners who have abused Kenyan children under the guise of volunteering. The most notable of those who have recently been jailed are Briton Simon Harris and John Ott, an American.
Harris, a former teacher, was in February this year jailed for 17 years and four months by a UK court after being found guilty of committing three indecent assaults and five sexual assaults.
The court also found him guilty of four charges of possessing indecent images of children.
Most of his victims were boys he was teaching. The 55-year-old had stayed in Kenya for over 20 years.
VICTORY TO JUSTICE
Ott, a former medical doctor, was jailed for 20 years by an American court in December 2013, then aged 68. He admitted that between January 2004 and September 2012, he engaged in illicit sexual conduct with at least 14 minors in Muhuru Bay, Sori and Kendu Bay. His victims were also boys aged between nine and 17.
Following Friday’s court declaration on Durham, the Oklahoma attorney said it was nothing to celebrate.
“This is not a verdict to celebrate. The only winner here is justice,” he wrote.
“Even a guilty verdict cannot bring back the innocence of the children that was taken by Durham. Their lives will never be the same, and we can all merely hope and pray that this verdict will someday give them some comfort and peace.”
The AP reported that Durham showed no emotion as a verdict was issued for each of the 17 counts facing him.
The report added that members of his family wept in the courtroom, as did his friends and supporters. Also, the representatives from the orphanage were in tears.
The attorney’s dispatch added: “Evidence showed that between April 30, 2014, and June 17, 2014, Durham traveled from Oklahoma City to Nairobi, Kenya, and while in Kenya he engaged in illicit sexual conduct with seven children under 18 years of age.”
The children’s home where Durham committed the offences provides neglected children with basic needs and education. It is part of the charity network Upendo Kids International founded by Kenyan-American couple Robert and Eunice Menja.
In July last year, Durham’s conduct was reported to Kiambu police by officials of the children’s home. He however fled to the US to evade arrest.
Ruiru police boss Isaac Thuranira then said that the American had confessed to having molested children sexually.
He added that medical examinations indicated that one of Durham’s victims was HIV positive, though was not clear whether the infection arose from Mr Durham’s misconduct.
Durham was later arrested after Kenyan authorities reported the matter to the US.
“This case was the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who was assisted by the United States Embassy in Kenya, the US Department of State
Diplomatic Security Service, and the Kenyan National Police Directorate of Criminal Investigations,” said the attorney.
During the trial Durham renounced his confessions about his sexual escapades.
According to the AP, prosecutors presented before court copies of handwritten and signed confessions that Durham gave the Upendo officials once his misdeeds were discovered.
“In the statements, Durham describes the alleged sexual assaults of a 12-year-old girl in a bathroom, and forcing another child to perform oral sex,” AP wrote, adding that Durham denied authoring the statements.
The paper also said that Durham told the court about his earlier beliefs that there was a demon he possessed that drove him to evil, though he insisted that he resisted the ever-present temptation to touch children.
At the announcement of his guilt, the jury cleared Durham of accusations that he travelled abroad with an intent to engage in a sexual act with a minor.