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Witchcraft trial echoed grisly murder case which 'has never been closed'

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 18, 2012

  • Peter Petrauske and Jack Kemp


The jailing of two members of a Cornish paedophile ring who ritualistically sexually abused young girls echoed the partly unsolved murder of "witch" Peter Solheim.

Last week at Truro Crown Court Jack Kemp, 69, and Peter Petrauske, 72, were jailed for 14 and 18 years respectively for crimes dating back to the 1970s.

During the case Peter Solheim was named by victims as part of the paedophile ring.

The court heard men indulged their sick fantasies wearing hooded robes and terrified their young victims with daggers.

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But it was not the first time the name Peter Solheim had been uttered in the same breath as child sex attacks and witchcraft.

Six years ago in the same court room at Truro in front of the same judge his name was at the centre of a sensational trial.

Solheim's lover Margaret James was accused and convicted of playing a leading role in his grisly murder.

James was charged after the 56-year-old former parish councillor's drugged, mutilated corpse was found floating in seas off the Cornish coastline.

While James was found guilty of conspiracy to murder and jailed for 20 years, the other plotters have never been unmasked and remain at large today.

Last night a police spokesman said: "The investigation into Peter Solheim's murder has never been closed.

"Officers from this particular case have worked closely with officers investigating his death to ensure any potentially relevant new evidence is reviewed.

"We continue to urge anyone who may have new information regarding Mr Solheim's death to come forward to the police."

During James' trial in the summer of 2006 a grim picture of Solheim was revealed.

Paul Dunkels, QC, defending James, outlined to the jury Mr Solheim's obsession with witchcraft and sex.

And he had been accused of being a paedophile by members of the local community at Carnkie, near Helston where he lived.

Indeed unknown hands had sent him hate mail for his unsavoury appetite for young children, argued the defence team.

On three occasions Mr Dunkels applied for a bad character application to show the darker side of Solheim's nature.

When a judge allows such an application the jury may hear a person's previous convictions or "reprehensible behaviour" as evidence.

The QC's strategy was to persuade the jury that because the dead man's behaviour was so questionable anyone could have hatched the murder plot and eventual slaying.

Judge Graham Cottle eventually granted the application.

Mr Dunkels argued: "We say Peter Solheim was a man with the propensity to commit sexual offences against children, to trade in illegal firearms and to engage in black magic and satanic rituals. This provides anyone with a motive for harming him which ends up with him being dead."

Details of Mr Solheim's sordid existence were laid bare including his dealing in hard-core pornography by copying videos before selling them on – his attic was described as an "occult laboratory".

It included recipes for potions designed to seduce women and dozens of books of witchcraft.

During Kemp and Petrauske's trial, defence witness Eleanor Watson shone a light on Mr Solheim's warped nature when she described him as being on the "dark side".

She told the court she became friendly with Petrauske when he attended a wicca ceremony at her home in St Ives in the middle 1990s.

Mrs Watson said ceremonies were held throughout the year at different locations, in gardens, and woods and on the beaches.

She said: "They never involved nakedness or robes and hoods, and only on very rare occasions do children attend.

"I did write a pagan play for them to perform in my garden.

"Peter Solheim attended a couple of meetings before he fell out with me and I told him he was not allowed to attend any more.

"He was on the dark side," she added.

As well as Peter Solheim, another figure loomed large during the Crown Court trial in the shape of convicted paedophile Stanley Pirie.

He was a friend and neighbour of Kemp's and faced a trial of his own in 2005 at Truro Crown Court.

The jury returned unanimous verdicts on a list of sexual offences and he was jailed for 12 years.

Victims of Pirie's depravity were to go on and give evidence of the vile abuse they had also suffered at the hands of Kemp and Petrauske.

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