An elderly man working as Santa Claus indecently touched five girls despite onlookers taking photos at the time, an Adelaide jury has been told.
“He used his Santa Claus costume as a thin and pitiful veil to indecently assault these children,” crown prosecutor Melissa Wilkinson said in her opening address on Wednesday.
William John Graham Webster, 77, has pleaded not guilty in South Australia’s District Court to five counts of aggravated indecent assault of girls aged between five and 12 in December 2012.
He is accused of touching their genital areas or bottoms or both, over their clothes, when he worked as Santa in an Adelaide shopping centre and at a community event.
The younger girls were sitting on his lap at the time, while the 12-year-old refused his request to do so and moved away.
She then told her mother: “he is a f*****g pedophile” and that he had touched her “arse”, Ms Wilkinson said.
Ms Wilkinson said dressing as Santa gave Webster access to the children.
“But for the fact that the accused was dressed as Santa Claus, these children would not have sat on his lap,” she said.
“But for the fact that the accused was dressed as Santa Claus, the accused would not have had the opportunity to touch these child inappropriately in plain sight of witnesses.”
The touching took place despite some parents or carers taking photos of the children with Santa, Ms Wilkinson said.
When interviewed by police, Webster described the claim as unbelievable.
But the prosecutor said any suggestion that the touching was accidental was “fanciful” given there were five individual cases.
The jury would hear evidence from the recruitment company which hired Webster that all Santa Clauses underwent a seven-hour training session which included topics such as hand placement, and appropriate and inappropriate comments and levels of affection.
The trial is continuing.