Respected Thai boxing coach, 59, who repeatedly sexually assaulted 13-year-old star pupil as well as abusing another girl he trained at his gym is jailed for six years
A Thai boxing championship coach has been jailed for six years after he was convicted of having an illicit affair with a ‘star pupil’ as he trained her at his gym.
Instructor Keith ‘Pele’ Nathan, of Timperley, Greater Manchester, took the girl’s virginity in his Ford Capri car when she was just 13 and then continued to have sex with her twice a week after he drove her home from lessons.
The woman told the court that in the 1980s the pair had sex inside the Capri, at a caravan he kept at a park and also at his home while he was laid up with his leg in plaster.
The victim, now in her 40s, was too embarrassed to report Nathan at the time believing she had been love with him – but went to police in 2015 after she married and gave birth to a daughter.
Detectives discovered the respected coach – hailed as a ‘God’ in the world of Muy Thai boxing – had used his gym as a ‘base’ to target other girls.
At Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester, the victim spoke out about her childhood ordeal as Nathan, now 59, was convicted of 17 charges of indecent assault involving the girl and another ex-pupil.
She told the hearing: ‘Following the birth of my daughter I suffered post-natal depression and I believe this is largely down to the way the defendant treated me.
‘Until three years ago, I never told anyone about what happened to me but I carried a secret that was always there and made me think that I had a weakness. Nathan was a part of my family and my parents treated him like another son and he made them believe that he was looking after me.
‘He encouraged me to lie to my parents and my family and created a distance between me and my sister.
‘He was in my life from the age of 12 and I could not leave him because the feeling of guilt kept me there. He was influential and well respected in the world of Muy Thai.
‘He has lied about me and our relationship and has not shown any decency or remorse.’
Nathan had been nicknamed Pele as a child after the Brazilian footballer due to his soccer skills at school but he made his name taking judo classes before moving into Thai boxing.
The victim, who can not be named for legal reasons, met him when she was just 11 after she joined his gym, Pele’s, in Altrincham where Nathan was one of three instructors.
She told the court: ‘He gave me a lot of attention because I was quite sporty and aggressive on the mats but it would make me feel really uncomfortable. I was only 13 and he was a lot older than me
‘In the beginning Keith would drive us to the gym then later I would go and meet him and he would drive back to a private road near his work and park there.
‘I can’t exactly remember what year it was or how old I was when it first started. But he would start to kiss me, he would put his lips on my lips.
‘I didn’t know how to respond I felt really uncomfortable with it. I didn’t respond to the kissing at first.
‘Over time I did start to respond, but not immediately. I was about 13 when the kissing started. He would say things like ‘you’re shy’ and it would make me feel uncomfortable.
‘After the kissing went on, he would start touching me then we started progressing to full sex, sexual intercourse. This became a regular thing after every lesson.
‘He used to drive a Ford Capri and I remember he got a girlfriend.
‘We did have sexual intercourse almost every time we went to or from the lessons and events. We went to Woodhouse Park, also known as ‘Pinky Park’and he took me there, we parked in the car park and we had sex there.
‘He also had a key for the barrier which would allow him into the yard at his work place where there was a caravan, and we had sex there too. My parents knew him and they knew he was driving me to the tournaments.
‘I remember he broke his leg from playing semi professional football and I remember having sex with him when he had a plaster on his leg. He had a lot of control over me and I wasn’t independent.
‘At the time I didn’t want to tell anybody. I didn’t feel that I was a victim. I just felt really embarrassed. It wasn’t until I suffered with post natal depression and that’s when I started to think about what happened to me.
‘I thought I was in love at the time, but looking back, I know I wasn’t, that was how he wanted me to feel. I didn’t know my feelings I was only a child. He may have been interested initially because of how good I was, how aggressive and confident I was as a fighter. I knew I was a star pupil but I didn’t want to be his girlfriend – I just wanted to be with him.’
Another girl told police: ‘He was a massive influence on my life but he used to make me feel uncomfortable. He used to touch me between my legs, he would use innuendos and it used to make me feel awkward and he used to make me kiss him.
‘He would say thing about my bum and my boobs and made comments about my diet and would say things like ‘don’t eat that, you’ll get fat.’ I would just agree or laugh it off. As a child I didn’t know how to act about it.
‘I remember one time I was stood behind the cash desk in his gym and I must have hurt my leg. I remember him rubbing my leg with this oil, going all the way to the top and then rubbing in between my legs. I didn’t know what to do, I don’t think I did anything. I was about 13 or 14 when this happened.
‘He would lie on top of me when we were at his house, and he would rub himself against me and kiss me. I never kissed him. I remember we went away for a tournament in either London or Birmingham. We were all in the same room. He was lay next to me and all of a sudden he put my hands down his pants. I just pretended to be asleep.
‘Thinking about it now, it did make me angry and really protective. I was anxious about people being off with me, I still am now. I am just angry because I know this contributed to the way I am now.’
A third girl told the hearing: ‘Pele would tickle us and the first one to laugh, he would kiss. He would kiss us on the forehead or cheek or mouth. I didn’t like it, I squirmed a bit and he stopped. I felt it was wrong at the time. But I was young and I didn’t know any better.’
Nathan denied wronging but was convicted after a trial. His lawyer William Donnelly said: ‘He must have been a trainer for thousands of children around that time. There is the highly unusual feature that the offences on one victim led to a relationship.’
But Judge Maurice Greene told Nathan: ‘You abused your position as a well-respected Thai Boxing coach. You were trusted by her parents, you took her to events and to training. It happened in her car, in her home, in a park – it happened on a regular basis.’
Nathan will also be made subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order banning him from working with children. Det Con Vickie Burgess of Greater Manchester Police said: ‘Despite projecting his most perverse and depraved actions on young girls, he somehow managed to keep his championship reputation in the martial arts world.
‘This is due to the lengths he went to to keep his abuse undetected and the promises he made to those he preyed on – what we now know as child grooming. Between 1979 and 2003, while parading as a trustworthy coach, he terrorised the lives of his victims who have been so brave in coming forward and now, the only thing he has to think about behind bars is how he subjected them to this atrocious abuse.’