Several Muay Thai gym owners and instructors in the UK have been arrested for child sex abuse offenses. This post lists details of each of those cases, as well as similar arrests of other abusive martial arts instructors in England.
Peter Feeley, Spartan Muay Thai
Feeley, 56, had been grooming and abusing a 14-year-old girl who had been training at his gym for over a year.
The abuse came to light after the girl was reported missing. When investigators traced the most recent contact from her phone to Feeley, they found him at the gym and arrested him on suspicion of kidnapping. There, they seized his laptop, which contained video evidence of his crimes.
During the trial, a letter written by the victim addressed to Feeley was read out in court. The following is an excerpt.
“I don’t want you to apologise, I want the guilt to eat you alive. I want you to drown in your thoughts like I drowned in mine. The memories constantly come back to haunt me. You caused all this yet I’m the one who’s left in agony.
‘I’ve decided to forgive you. Not for you, but for me. I will no longer pollute my heart with the fear, distrust, pain or anger. I will no longer be shackled to the past, I forgive you because hate is just another way of holding on and you don’t deserve to be held on to.”
It later emerged that Feeley had groomed other young female students, inviting them to attend ‘sleepovers’ at the gym, where he plied them with alcohol. One of these occasions, in 2012, he molested another girl in her sleeping bag.
Detective Constable Hannah Greetham spoke to BBC News about the investigation. “There is no excuse for the devastating abuse he has mercilessly inflicted on these young girls’ lives, who have been so brave in reporting his cruelty”, she said.
Feeley is now on the Sex Offender Register for life.
Keith ‘Pele’ Nathan, Pele’s Gym
Keith ‘Pele’ Nathan, owner of Pele’s gym in Manchester, was arrested in June and charged with 19 offenses of indecent assault and gross indecency.
It was reported that the incidents involved three girls, all of whom were aged under 16. These offenses are alleged to have taken place at gyms in Manchester and at sporting events between 1979 and 2003. The victims spoke of how Nathan abused his position of power, becoming a close family friend as well as a respected coach, before grooming and abusing them.
Keith Nathan was found guilty of 17 charges against two girls on June 28th, 2018. He was sentenced to 6 years in prison.
After the conviction, another victim later came forward. “Seeing those stories, it just made me realise that he’s paedophile”, she said. As a result, he was found guilty of further four counts of indecent assault on a female under 14-years-old on August 24th, 2020. Another 3 years has been added to his prison sentence.
Matthew Kendall, Telford Thai Boxing
Matthew Kendall, owner of Telford Thai Boxing, committed suicide last year after being arrested for an offence against a young female student.
It’s reported that Kendall, 39, was found in bed with a 15-year-old girl at a hotel, where he and some of his young fighters were staying for a Muay Thai show in Bolton in October 2016. A receptionist at the hotel alerted police after seeing Kendall take an underage girl to his room. When they arrived, he was arrested on suspicion of grooming and sexual activity with a minor.
Later, he was released on bail pending further inquiry. However, before meaningful progress could be made in the investigation, he shot himself in the head with a shotgun. Just three days after the arrest, his body was found in a Shropshire car park.
‘Who Was the Real Matt Kendall?‘, a blog post written by Carolyn Clayton, describes Kendall as ‘sick’ and ‘a narcissist’. Clayton claims that while her two sons trained at Telford Muay Thai, she was heavily involved in the gym. She wrote that during her time there, there was “lots of talk of his unhealthy relationship [sic] with his vulnerable girl students”.
Telford Muay Thai has since been shut down.
Robert Sharpley, Leigh Thai Boxing
Robert Sharpley was jailed on December 21st, 2021 for grooming and sexually abusing one of his young students in the 1990s.
The victim, a 14-year old girl, was one of his students at Leigh Thai Boxing Club (near Bolton), which he has been running since 1985. The court heard how he groomed her for six years by giving her drugs, showing her sexual images, taking her to nightclubs while underage, and making her lie to her parents about spending time with him. He first sexually assaulted her at his house during his 34th birthday party, when he persuaded her to perform a sex act on him. A lawyer representing the victim told Bolton Crown Court that she “wanted to please him” and “was flattered by the attention as it made her feel grown up – although clearly she was still a child”. “They later had intercourse and it happened on various other occasions, this was a man who was her Thai boxing teacher sexually exploiting a young under-age girl”, he said. The abuse continued until she turned 20.
The victim decided to make a report in 2019 after reading a news article about other Muay Thai instructors who’d abused their students.
Sharpley, now 62, was sentenced to 42 months imprisonment after pleading guilty to 2 counts of indecent assault.
“She was a young student aged 14 or 15 and she was kissed by you on the lips as part of a grooming process. She was encouraged to attend at your house and was supplied with cannabis before sexual conduct took place. She was effectively vulnerable by virtue of the fact that he was groomed by you in your capacity as a Thai boxing instructor. There was a degree of planning and a degree of grooming and it was a breach of trust at a time when you were her teacher and significantly older than her.”
– Sentencing Judge Martin Walsh
Sharpley will be on the Sex Offender Register for life.
Predatory Instructors in Other Martial Arts
Multiple instructors teaching other martial arts in the UK have been arrested on similar offences.
In 2011, David Prosser was jailed for 21 years for the sexual abuse of 21 children. He was a kickboxing instructor at several West London clubs, and preyed on the students he was teaching. He was convicted of charges of rape, attempted rape and sexual assault against 20 boys and 1 girl. The assaults took place from 1980 to 2000. He had previously been charged with sexually assaulting 2 boys in 1997, but was found not guilty at trial. It wasn’t until another victim came forward in 2007 that he was stopped.
Adam Beniston was jailed for child sexual offences in 2012. He was charged with 11 counts against two 14-year old girls he was teaching in Lincolnshire. Just one year prior, he had been named ‘Coach of the Year’ at the 2011 Lincolnshire Sports Awards. He was sentenced to 5 years in prison, but served only half. He was jailed again in 2015 after breaching the conditions of his release by joining a kickboxing gym in Nottinghamshire, where he had offered to teach classes.
Curtis Page, a kickboxing instructor in London, was recently jailed for historical charges of rape and sexual assault against three girls as young as 11 years old.
Page, now 60, was charged with 22 counts in total, including six rapes, 14 indecent assaults, and two counts of sex with a child under the age of 13. He was found guilty of two counts of indecent assault in April 2017 and subsequently jailed for four years.
One victim came forward at the age of 42 after seeing a picture of herself aged 11, when Page had first groped her. “I looked at my picture and I was just a little girl. This was abuse. This was wrong”, she told reporters. Page raped her for the first time when she was 12 years old, and continued what reporters have called “a sexual relationship” with her for years after that.
During the trial, jurors were told that Page repeatedly raped another girl after she had confided in him that she had previously been abused. Years later, he allegedly held a blade to her throat while raping her, threatening to throw her out of a window if she fought back.
During the trial, the prosecutor described how Page’s position of power allowed him to continue the abuse for years. “All of these girls lacked father figures in their lives and looked up to Mr Page as person of authority. He drove a wedge between them and their families”, he said.
Students referred to him as ‘Master Page’, and at the time of his arrest, he was president of the Great British Martial Arts Association and vice chairman of the British Kickboxing Council. Below, he’s pictured with his students at London Predators gym.
Paul Monty, a kickboxing teacher from Stockton, was convicted of 13 charges of sexual abuse against two of his female students in 2014.
The assaults took place in the 1980’s, when the girls were ages 13 and 15. Monty was in his 20’s at the time. He was originally jailed for four and a half years, but his sentence was increased to 10 years after an appeal.
Danny Ryland, 40, was arrested in 2014 and charged with 19 counts of sexual assault against four of his female students, who were aged between 11 and 16.
The offences were alleged to have taken place from 2009 to 2012 during one-on-one kickboxing sessions at his gym, Harborough Kickboxing Club, which has since closed its doors.
In 2017, he was found not guilty of 11 of those charges, and a jury was unable to agree on the remaining 8. As a result, Ryland was acquitted at Leicester Crown Court.
Kickboxing instructor Paul Drury was convicted of three counts of rape against a 12-year old girl he had been teaching at his gym, Paul Drury’s Black Belt Academy in Dawlish.
After his arrest, police found child abuse images on his computer, as well as online chats in which he had boasted about his offences. He was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment.
Karate instructor Joseph Griffin was handed a life sentence in 2001 after being found guilty of abusing young boys he had been teaching over a 30-year period. Some of his victims were as young as 8 years old.
Jaspal Riat, a Karate instructor at the KoshinRyu Academy of Martial Arts in Birmingham, was jailed for 8 years in 2011 after being convicted of 7 charges of sexual activity with a child.
He had preyed on a 13-year old girl in his Karate classes, who was described as ‘particularly vulnerable’. Riat groomed her and began a sexual relationship with her, sometimes tying her up before raping her. The young girl’s teacher raised the alarm after she had confided in her, only to be told that the girl was an ‘attention seeker’, and that authorities were already aware of the situation. The girl later died by suicide at the age of 16.
Henry Cook (also known as Harry Cook)
Northumberland Karate teacher Henry Cook abused five young girls who attended his classes. One of the assaults is reported to have taken place during a lesson on self defense against sex attackers. Upon his arrest, police discovered a disturbing catalogue of abuse on his computer, totalling 55,0000 images and 600 videos.
He was handed a ten-year prison sentence in June 2012.
Tony Castle, also known as Tony Boltonwood, taught karate at Stoke Martial Arts Club, as well as several other gyms in England. He was jailed in 2011 for sexually abusing 2 boys he had been teaching. He was charged with three counts of sexual activity with a child, one count of causing a child to watch a sexual act, one count of sexually assaulting a child, and three counts of sexual assault. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
In February 2021, former Karate instructor Colin Stratton was sentenced to 21 months imprisonment for 9 counts of indecent assault against young boys he had been teaching, dating back to 1984 and 1992.
Stratton had a long history of sexual abuse of young children. He had previously been sentenced to 6 years in prison in 1997, for raping a boy who was under 16 years old, attempted rape and indecent assault. After his release, we has convicted of possessing indecent images of children. In 2014, he was also jailed for 8 years for the sexual assault of a child between 1989 and 1995. The victim, another young boy who attended Stratton’s Karate classes, was just 11 years old when the abuse began.
Stratton will now remain on the Sex Offender’s Register for life.
Martial arts instructor Martin Yankey was sentenced to prison in July 2021 for grooming, abducting and sexually abusing a 15-year old girl in England. He was the chief instructor at Aspire Martial Arts in Blackburn.
Over a four-month period, Yankey, then 34, plied the victim with alcohol, as well as so much cocaine that her septum was left damaged and she once lost an entire day due to intoxication. The victim had run away from a children’s home, where she was under government care. Yankey reportedly hid her in his loft when police repeatedly visited his house after being alerted by social workers. Eventually, she was found there in a kitchen cupboard.
In court, the victim explained that she didn’t realise that the ‘relationship’ was wrong until she watched a TV show about grooming gangs. Until then, she’d believed that Yankey loved her. After realising the extent of abuse, manipulation and exploitation she’d been subjected to, she was diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety and depression. At one point, she attempted to take her own life.
“I feel you have won. You have taken my childhood memories away from me. I questioned why me, I was crying out for help and you abused that. I have little or no trust in society”, she said, according to reports.
Yankey was found guilty of 1 count of child abduction, 2 counts of sexual activity with a child, 1 count of possessing an indecent image of a child, and 1 count of supplying class A drugs. He has been jailed for 13 years, after which he will serve a further 2 years on license and will remain on the Sex Offender’s Register for life.
Newcastle Karate coach and trainee school teacher Jordan McCarthy-Simmonette was sentenced in April 2022 after being caught with over 100 indecent images of children on his devices.
In October 2019, police received information that the 24-year old had been communicating online with someone he thought to be a 14-year old boy. In fact, he’d been talking with another sex offender, who was the subject of separate police investigation. Police then seized his mobile phone and tablet, on which they discovered a total of 109 Category C images.
He appeared at Newcastle Crown Court on 20th April, 2022 and was charged with attempted sexual communication with a child and possession of indecent images of children. After pleading guilty, he was sentenced to a 10-month prison sentence, which was suspended for 2 years. He was also given a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) for seven years and placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register for 10 years.
According to reports, McCarthy-Simmonette was immediately removed from his role as a coach, although the name of the gym he was working at was not reported. It is also reported that he had set up his own karate club at the primary school he was working at prior to his arrest.
In 2010, Nicholas Tuley was convicted of 13 charges of sexual abuse against four boys he taught at his jiu-jitsu classes. One of the victims was just ten years old.
Judge Heather Lloyd, who presided over the case, stated that Tuley used his “physical strength and emotional hold” as well as a “veneer of respectability” to carry out the abuse, which took place from 1993 to 2007.
The prosecutor added that Tuley’s position as a martial arts instructor gave him “an extensive opportunity to identify those likely to be most vulnerable and then ingratiate into their lives and sexually abuse them”.
Tuley, 43, was given a prison sentence of ten and a half years. However, it was later reduced to nine years on appeal. He was also ordered to sign the sex offenders register and given a lifetime ban from working with children.
Jiu-Jitsu instructor Peter Milner was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2019 after being found guilty of the sexual abuse of 2 young girls. One of the victims was just 5 years old when the abuse began, and this continued until she reached puberty. The abuse took place in Swansea, after which he moved to Shropshire. There, it was found that he had continued teaching martial arts at The Shrewsbury Club up until just 2 days before he began his prison sentence.
After his offences came to light, a victim in Shropshire came forward, and he was charged with a further 7 counts of rape of a child and sexual activity with a child. These offences took place between the years of 2007 and 2014. As a result, Milner’s jail sentence was extended to a total of 33 years.
See also: Sexual Assault in a Muay Thai Gym