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Volunteer gets 40 years in prison for child abuse at Kenyan orphanage

An American volunteer convicted of sexually abusing children at an orphanage in Kiambu county was on Monday sentenced 40 years in a federal prison.

U.S. District Judge David L. Russell on Monday handed down the sentence to Mr Matthew Lane Durham who had faced up to 30 years on each of four counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places, the Associated Press reported.

He also ordered Mr Durham to pay restitution of $15,863.

“These were heinous crimes committed on the most vulnerable victims. He was their worst nightmare come true,” Russell said.

NO REMORSE

Durham, wearing an orange prison-issued jumpsuit, read a statement before sentencing in which he asked the court for mercy but did not express remorse for the offenses he was convicted of.

Mr Durham, 21, was convicted in June last year 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.

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.

Durham had served as a volunteer since 2012 at the orphanage, which specializes in caring for neglected children.

“All I wanted was to follow God’s plan for me,” Durham told the judge on Monday. He said he will try to commit himself to serving others while he serves his prison sentence.

Although Durham claims he is innocent of the charges, he said he was sorry that the accusations against him had damaged the orphanage and those it cares for.

“The Upendo kids do not deserve this,” Durham said.

CHILLING EFFECT

In a sentencing memorandum, prosecutors said Durham’s actions have had a chilling effect on the lives of dozens of foreign volunteers in Kenya and elsewhere “who must now live under the cloud of suspicion, distrust and apprehension when they volunteer their time, talent and resources for the betterment of children in East Africa and beyond.”

“There is a real perception among Upendo’s local Kenyan community that more pedophiles lurk among the volunteers, especially the young male volunteers,” prosecutors said.

A jury convicted Durham in June on seven counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places, but Russell acquitted Durham on three of the charges in January.