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'Feared' pastor convicted of rapes which left some child victims pregnant - Banner image
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Church News

'Feared' pastor convicted of rapes which left some child victims pregnant

by Press Association

A "feared" evangelical pastor who used his trusted position to abuse children and adults over 20 years has been convicted of multiple rapes of members of his congregation.

Self-styled prophet Michael Oluronbi, originally from Nigeria, was found guilty of the offences against six women and a man - five of whom attended his church.

Some of his offences were carried out after he convinced victims to take part in "spiritual bathing", which he claimed would "cleanse" them of evil spirits.

Oluronbi was convicted on Friday after a trial at Birmingham Crown Court, and his offending can now be reported after restrictions were lifted.

During the trial, a jury heard that some of his young female victims became pregnant multiple times but were taken to abortion clinics by qualified pharmacist Oluronbi, to cover up what was happening.

He was convicted of 15 counts of rape, seven counts of indecent assault and two counts of sexual assault.

The 60-year-old's wife Juliana was convicted of three counts of aiding and abetting rape after helping arrange some of the terminations.

The religious leader was brought to justice after one of his victims, now an adult, came forward.

Jurors heard that Oluronbi was linked to a Christian church in Edgbaston, Birmingham - the Cherubim and Seraphim Church - whose roots were in Nigeria.

He set up on his own splinter group for about 40 adults and children - separate to the church and located at another address - where he began a practice of "spiritual bathing".

The offences took place in Birmingham and London.

Phil Bradley QC, prosecuting, told the jury: "The Crown's case is that Mr Oluronbi used what he called 'spiritual work' as a subterfuge for that sexual abuse.

"The main tactic he employed was to claim that God had instructed him to administer 'holy baths' to some of his congregation in order to 'cleanse' them and protect them from evil influences.

"That activity began when his victims were children.

"There can be no doubt that its real purpose was to serve his sexual gratification."

He added that for some of the female victims the offending "progressed to repeated rapes, on many occasions leading to unwanted pregnancies and terminations".

"You will learn that this man, who was revered and feared by his victims, kept a vice-like grip on many of them and continued to abuse them well into adulthood," Mr Bradley said.

Oluronbi's victims described him as "controlling" and "almost like a king".

After the verdicts, Detective Superintendent Nick Walton, of West Midlands Police, said Oluronbi convinced the children, through conversations with parents, to take the "spiritual baths".

"He convinced a number of children... that these can benefit them either religiously, from a health perspective, or educationally," he said.

"They'd be taken upstairs to the bathroom, stripped naked, sometimes wearing a red girdle - like a sash - and he would wash them down.

"On occasion he would sexually assault them, but also take them to an adjacent bedroom and subject them to sexual assaults and rape."

The offending happened over a period of 20 years, at various locations, going back to the 1980s.

"Some of his victims described it as a cult," added Mr Walton.

"He has been confronted on occasions by relatives and parents. He never made admissions, and even blamed the Devil for it on some occasions."

Oluronbi was arrested at Birmingham Airport in May last year, while trying to leave the country for Nigeria with some of his ceremonial belongings and a sum of cash.

Police are unable to say whether he was trying to flee justice, but pointed out he had recently been confronted about the abuse by one of his victims.

For his victims, the ordeal has taken a "massive" physical and mental toll, detectives said.

Mr Walton added: "He was a qualified pharmacist so he had access to certain medications, and on other occasions booked them into clinics under false names.

"One of the girls had five or six abortions."

Describing Oluronbi an "intelligent", Mr Walton also said the pastor "laughed" in court on several occasions while giving evidence in his own defence.

Mr Walton said Oluronbi had been working as a pastor until his arrest in May 2018.

Police also believe there could be more victims and have urged anyone with information to get in touch.

Georgina Hewins of the Crown Prosecution Service said: "This case involved the serious and sustained sexual abuse of vulnerable young children by a religious leader.

"The young age of the victims greatly increases the seriousness of the offences."

She paid tribute to the "great courage of the victims" which revealed the "full extent of the despicable and lawless behaviour of these people".

Oluronbi and his wife will be sentenced at a later date.

Dear Lord, 

Hear the cries of our brothers and sisters
who have been gravely harmed,
and the cries of those who love them.
Soothe their restless hearts with hope,
steady their shaken spirits with faith.
Grant them justice for their cause,
enlightened by your truth.

Holy Spirit, comforter of hearts,
heal your people’s wounds
and transform brokenness into wholeness.
Grant us the courage and wisdom,
humility and grace, to act with justice.
Breathe wisdom into our prayers and labors.
Grant that all harmed by abuse may find peace in justice.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord.

Amen.

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