LONDON – A Zimbabwean born church leader who called himself “The Prophet” has been convicted of molesting members of his own flock.
Walter Masocha, founder and Archbishop of the Stirling-based Agape for All Nations Church, was found guilty of sexual assault following a trial.
The 51-year-old was convicted of putting his hand down a schoolgirl’s trousers, claiming he was driving away demons, and groping a deaconess while praying for her stomach complaint.
He will be sentenced on May 19.
Both women were targeted at Masocha’s seven-bedroom mansion, Coseyneuk House, near Stirling, where the Zimbabwe-born churchman regularly received followers.
During a six-day trial at Falkirk Sheriff Court, the 15-year-old girl said many in the church regarded Masocha as their “spiritual father” and called him “Dad”.
She said that in late 2013, she had been in a games room at Coseyneuk House when the church leader had repeatedly “pinged” her underwear and grabbed and pinched her bottom.
When she later asked Masocha why he had done it, he told her that he had seen “demons and things that shouldn’t be there” in her pants, and that he was clearing them away.
The deaconess, a 32-year-old mother-of-four, had visited Masocha’s office for prayer while suffering from a stomach complaint, when he started touching her private parts.
She said: “I was so shocked. At that time I saw him as somebody who could never do any wrong, because that was what he used to teach us. He used to teach us his hugs were anointed.”
When she told her husband, a devoted member of the church, he told her: “The Prophet is seeing something in your genitals that needs to be removed, so he was removing that.”
She left her husband and the church shortly after members had tried to have her sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
Paramedics who they summoned to a service she was attending in England declined to act, concluding that the call had been made as an “act of public humiliation”.
She called the church a “cult”, and said she had been “brainwashed.”
Masocha denied the allegations, with his defence claiming the deaconess was at the centre of a conspiracy to bring down the church because Masocha had postponed publication of a church magazine she had been working on.
The court heard that the church had grown in eight years from a meeting in Masocha’s living room to an international organisation, with more than 2,000 members in the UK, USA, Canada and Africa.
The Strathclyde University PhD graduate was known by members by titles including “The Prophet”, “The Apostle”, “Man of God”, and “High Commissioner”.
A jury took 30 minutes to return majority guilty verdicts on the charges of sexually assaulting the deaconess and sexually touching the teenager.
The church leader was earlier found not guilty of two other charges, including one of engaging in sexual behaviour with a 13-year-old girl who retracted her claims that she had been induced to massage his half-naked body with oils.
Sheriff Kenneth McGowan deferred sentence until 19 May for reports, including an assessment of the risk Masocha poses to other women and girls.
Masocha’s name was added to the sex offenders register. – BBC