In a video promoting his charity, Simon Harris presents himself as a caring father figure, providing education, food and shelter to some of the world’s poorest children. Young Kenyan boys are seen playing in the garden of his house, and sitting round a dinner table, with Harris at its head.
But the reality of his ‘green house’, as it was known by the boys, was far darker.
Behind closed doors, Harris sexually assaulted the boys. Police believe there may have been dozens of victims.
The house is on the outskirts of Gilgil, a small town on the edge of Kenya’s Rift Valley. Harris was a well-known figure, driving round in his white Land Rover. He would stop, offer sweets to the children living on the streets – boys as young as six – and invite them back to the ‘green house’, offering them meals, a shower, and shelter. The boys, who did not have families or homes of their own, described it as “heaven.”
But for some, the price was a living hell.
Harris would take a shine to a boy, ply him with alcohol or drugs, and invite him into his bed for the night, the court heard. He would then attack him.
Many simply put up with it to avoid going back to the streets.
Abuse was a price worth paying for these desperate, vulnerable children.
One boy, who gave evidence in the trial, said Harris had threatened to kill him if he told anybody about the abuse. Others feared they would not be believed, or were shamed by the stigma that still surrounds homosexuality in rural Kenya. Police believe there may be at least 40 other victims who have not had the courage to come forward.
Harris had abused before. He admitted indecently assaulting three boys while working as a Latin teacher at the private Shebbear College in Devon in the late 1980s. But despite an investigation by the school and police, the boys’ families did not want to pursue criminal charges at the time.
Police believe Harris first travelled to Gilgil soon after, with the sole intention of continuing his interest in young boys.
His abuse might have stopped in 2009, when he was jailed in the UK for possessing indecent images of children. But a travel ban imposed on him was overturned by a court after Harris produced documents from agencies in Kenya saying they could manage his risk. Police believe those documents were forgeries.
He was stopped only by an unprecedented cross-border investigation, and a little-used law allowing British suspects to be tried in the UK for offences committed abroad.
But while Simon Harris serves his punishment, the desolate life of the Kenyan street boys he targeted continues. One has killed himself since being abused by a man who claimed to be helping them.
Simon Harris was found not guilty on three further indecent assault charges and one further charge of possessing indecent images of children.
The jury failed to reach a verdict on charges of rape.