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Hindu priest rapes devotee in Britain

Somanathan told his victim that she had been his wife in a previous life and that god had reunited them.
PTI | By Indo-Asian News Service, London
UPDATED ON JAN 29, 2005 03:27 PM IST

A Hindu priest in Britain has been convicted of raping a devotee of Tamil origin at a temple in London.

Ramanathan Somanathan, 41, a priest at a temple in Thornton Heath near Croydon, south London, told his victim that she had been his wife in a previous life, and that god had reunited them.

He raped the 29-year-old Tamil woman on two separate occasions, once in 2002 and again in 2003, after which she became pregnant and had an abortion, the Croydon Crown was told.

The police praised the victim for the "tremendous courage" it took her to come forward and seek justice.

"This case has been particularly distressing for both the victim and witnesses involved. They ran the risk of being isolated by their own community," said detective Rob Buckell of the Croydon police.

While stressing how rare such abuses of religious authority are, Buckell condemned the priest for betraying his position of trust.

"He hid behind his religion and preyed upon the vulnerability of his victims," he said.

The unnamed rape victim first went to the married Somanathan to have her horoscope read after she decided to buy a new flat.

Gillian Etherton, the prosecuting barrister, said: "He said she had beautiful eyes and it was good that she had left her husband. He said they had had a past life together. She had married him and that they had loved each other. She had committed suicide in the past life but god had sent her to him."

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