UK Muay Thai Instructors Arrested for Child Sexual Abuse

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.

This post is periodically updated when new cases arise, not just to keep track of these instructors and document their crimes, but also to raise awareness of how this kind of abuse happens within our own communities and gyms.

Peter Feeley, Spartan Muay Thai

FEELEY

Peter Feeley, owner of Spartan Muay Thai in Manchester, was handed a six-year prison sentence in 2017 after being found guilty of child abduction, sexual activity with a child and indecent assault.

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 Gympele

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

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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.

Thomas Eccles 

Inverness Thai Boxing instructor Thomas Eccles, 46, was jailed for raping a woman in 2012.

According to reports, Eccles “repeatedly punched his victim before forcing her to perform a series of degrading sex acts on him” before raping her. “The woman told the court that during her ordeal, she cried and asked him to stop. But Eccles ignored her pleas for mercy and continued to abuse her”. After escaping, she sought help from a security guard at a nearby supermarket. During the trial, Eccles maintained that he’d had consensual sex with his victim.

The name of the gym where he taught was not given, but it was reported that he’d also run a Thai restaurant. Eccles was handed a prison sentence of four years and three months, and will remain on the Sex Offenders Register for life.

Predatory Instructors in Other Martial Arts

Multiple instructors teaching other martial arts in the UK have been arrested on similar offences.

Kickboxing

David Prosser

David Prosser kickboxing instructor child sexual abuse

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

Adam Beniston kickboxing instructor child sexual abuse

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

curtis page

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.

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Paul Monty

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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 1980s, when the girls were ages 13 and 15. Monty was in his 20s 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

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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.

Paul Drury

Paul Dury kickboxing martial arts instructor child sexual abuse

In 2015, 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

Michael Lines

In 2016, Michael Lines was charged with several charges of sexual abuse against young girls, including six counts of sexual activity with a female aged under 16 and one count of causing or inciting a female under 16 to engage in sexual activity.

The offenses were committed against two young girls, aged between 14 and 18, from 2010 to 2015. Lines was 41 at the time of the trial.

Lines ran ECKA Drayton Parslow Karate and Kickboxing Club, where he taught kickboxing, karate and self defense. He also helped to run MK Kickbox Fit, where he taught fitness bootcamps for women.

He was convicted in 2017 and found guilty in 2018. He was sentenced to 7 years in prison, handed an indefinite Sexual Harm Prevention Order, and ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register for life.

Karate

Joseph Griffin

joseph griffin karate martial arts instructor child sexual abuse

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. 

Andrew Finn

Karate instructor Andrew Finn, 52, was jailed in 2007 for spying on one of his young female students while she changed and washed. The victim was under 13 years of age.

He ran two karate clubs in the North-East of England.

Prior to this sentence, he was due to stand trial for charges of sexual assault and causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity against the same victim. However, the trial was abandoned when he plead guilty to charges of voyeurism and common assault. This negotiation was accepted by his victim and prosecutors, and prevented the young girl from having to give evidence.

These were not his first offences. He also stood trial in 2004 on five charges of indecent assault against a student he was alleged to have taken back to his home. However, he was cleared by a jury.

Finn was handed a six-month jail sentence and a five-year Sexual Offences Prevention Order. This meant that he was banned from working with children, and from visiting gyms, community centres and leisure facilities.

Finn’s son, 25-year old Andrew Finn Jr, was also charged after the investigation found that he had downloaded child abuse on his computer. He also taught karate with his father.

He’d downloaded 32 clips and 12 images, half of which came under Category B, the second most serious category defined by law. He was given a six-month suspended sentence by Teeside Court, and ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register.

Finn Jr’s then partner, Sasha Pearce, told reporters how the discovery had impacted her family’s lives. Pearce, a black belt in Taekwondo who taught alongside her partner and his father, mentioned how martial arts instructors are in positions of power, which are often abused. “When you put your kids into any of these clubs, you trust the people who are teaching them and you trust the system”, she said.

Jaspal Riat

Jaspral Riat karate martial arts instructor sexual abuse

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)

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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

tony castle karate instructor child abuse

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. 

Colin Stratton

colin stratton sexual abuse martial arts instructr

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 Offenders Register for life. 

Martin Yankey

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 Offenders Register for life.

Jordan McCarthy-Simmonette

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.

Mark Mayne

Wales Karate instructor Mark Mayne was put on trial in 2007 for sexually abusing six young girls aged between 10 and 15. He was 40 years old at the time.

He faced a total of 26 charges, 13 of which were for rape. The others included indecency with a child, indecent assault and engaging in sexual activity with children. Mayne had threatened to kill one of his victims if she told anyone about his attacks, and after one became pregnant, he stamped on her stomach and attempted to carry out an at-home abortion using a length of wire.

The abuse came to light when one of the victims eventually told her mother, and Mayne was arrested. Mayne denied all charges, claiming that one of his victims “got fresh with him” and that another had tried to blackmail him.

He was found guilty at Cardiff Crown Court for 16 charges against 3 of his victims, and sentenced to 18 years in prison. He is a registered sex offender, and is banned for life from working with children.

Gary Lee Goodrum

Gary Lee Goodrum, 38, was jailed in April 2018 for abusing four girls aged between 13 and 16, whom he’d been teaching at his Karate gym, Gary Lee Martial Arts Academy in Fife, Scotland.

The abuse took place between 1999 and 2007. He was arrested after one of his 14-year-old martial arts students spoke out against him, accusing him of sexually assaulting her by backing her up against a wall and grabbing her breasts. He faced 10 charges of indecent assault. Originally, he was also charged with rape, but was cleared after this charge was withdrawn by the Crown.

Goodrum was found guilty of 8 charges. He received a 9-year prison sentence, and will remain on the Sex Offenders register for life. Detective Inspector June Peebles praised his victims for coming forward.

“I want to commend the victims in this case for their bravery and continued cooperation throughout the investigation. Goodrum took advantage of a position of trust to abuse children and, thanks to the courage of the victims, he is unable to exploit this position again.

Detective Inspector June Peebles, Fife Division’s Public Protection Unit

Jiu Jitsu

Nicholas Tuley

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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.

Peter Milner

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.

MMA

Eric Stokes

In November 2014, he admitted eight counts of historic indecent assault against a girl aged under 16, which took place over a four-year period 20 years prior.

Eric Stokes taught adult’s mixed martial arts classes at Holistic Fitness Studios in Wimbledon, in a space he’d rented from the gym since 2007. According to his LinkedIn profile, he claims to have a black belt in MMA.

He was sentenced to a two-year communitty order, which required him to sign the Sex Offenders Register for five years and be supervised for two years. An appeal for a harsher sentence was later blocked.

According to Holistic Fitness Studios chief instructor Stephen Dixon, Stokes’ rental contract was immediately terminated and he was asked to stay away from the premises. Stokes is reported as expressing that he felt the decision was “really unfair”. “I have been working and training in martial arts for 20 years”, he said. “The job I had was teaching adults and had nothing to do with children”.

Stokes’ victim praised the police officers who helped bring him to justice after 20 years, and encouraged other survivors to speak out.

“There is a lot of support now for victims of abuse, be strong, don’t be afraid to ask for help, it will be the best thing you have ever done. Believe in your truth and never doubt yourself. My healing has only just begun as I continue my rehabilitation into feeling normal again, and I hope I can give courage and strength to at least one person so that some good comes of the abuse I suffered.”

Stokes’ victim, unnamed

Miscellaneous Martial Arts

The following offenders were reported as ‘martial arts’ instructors, but the specific martial art they taught or gym where they’d worked was not reported.

Steven Oxborrow

Steven Oxborrow sexually abused three children while working as a martial arts instructor and children’s entertainer in Wootton and New Milton.

On April 5th, 2022, 33-year old Oxborrow was found guilty of five charges of sexual activity with a child under 13, three charges of sexual of a child under 13, two charges of making indecent photographs of a child, one charge of possession of an indecent image of a child and one charge of rape of a child under 13. One of his victims reported being sexually abused during his martial arts classes.

“Oxborrow demonstrated that he was a very dangerous human-being in grooming his victims – and their parents – into a false sense of security as a supposed ‘respected’ person within the community who would not cause anyone any harm.”

Detective Constable Donna Kay from Hampshire Constabulary’s Amberstone Unit

Oxborrow was sentenced to 13 and a half years imprisonment, after which he will serve an additional year on license. He will remain on the Sex Offenders Register for life.

Derek Hodder

Brixham martial arts instructor Derek Hodder, known as Ross Hodder, was found guilty of abusing 9 girls in a June 2022 trial. He’d been convicted of 33 charges of rape, indecent assault, sexual activity with a child and indecency with a child . At the time of the trial, he was 65 years old.

The abuse took place over a period of more than 30 years, from 1986.  The investigation began in 2018 when a 17-year old girl he’d been teaching reported that he’d raped her. Following this report, a further eight women came forward.

Many of these girls met Hodder at his martial arts club, where he abused them under the guise of Shiatsu or massage sessions. He was reported to have given them cannabis and gifts, telling them the abuse was ‘their secret’. During the trial, he was described as controlling, having had ‘a hold’ over his victims.

“(Hodder’s) work as a martial arts coach gave him access to young children and he exploited this over many years. He showed a clear pattern of abuse, grooming young girls and encouraging them to distance themselves from the adults in their lives.”

Lisa Cassidy, district crown prosecutor

Hodder will be sentenced on July 22nd, 2022.

For information about how to foster a safe and healthy training environment, how to prevent abusive instructors from entering your gym, and how to respond to reports of sexual assault of harassment, read How to Be an Ally to Women in Muay Thai.

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