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Heroic Londoner's 'Gut Instinct' Saves Young Kenyan Girls From Child Rapist

Why Global Citizens Should Care
In a truly globalised world, tourism is soaring. But at the same time, children are increasingly vulnerable to sexual exploitation. As risks increase, it’s vital that everybody remains vigilant to safeguard the vulnerable — and this story acts as a fantastic example for how you can respond to suspected sex tourism. Take action on empowering children in poverty here.

David Bushell was on holiday in Kenya when he grew suspicious of a fellow Englishman.

While at a hotel, Bushell had observed Keith Morris, 72, spending lots of time with groups of girls as young as 10.

Something was wrong — and Bushell decided he had to act.

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Bushell watched Morris over three days, and questioned hotel staff about the 10 and 12-year-old girls in his company, according to the BBC.

The staff revealed that Morris, a retired locksmith from Hull, England, was set to adopt eight young girls.

"I felt like something was wrong, but I was not really sure why the alarm bells were ringing,” Morris told the BBC. "By the second day I felt like I just wanted to go and confront him and ask, 'What are you doing with these children? What relationship are they to you?'."

Bushell then reported Morris to the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) — and uncovered the crimes of a serial sexual abuser stretching back years.

The NCA and Kenyan police launched a major investigation, and found that Morris had been visiting the small rural village in Kilifi County, Kenya, for over 20 years. He supported families trapped in poverty with access to health care and education, establishing himself as a “trusted figure” in the community.

In 2016, Morris attempted to become the legal guardian of eight children in the village. Although rejected by the courts, his application was actually supported by local families.

Read More: More People Than Ever Before Are at Risk From Slavery in the UK

It was later alleged that Morris raped and assaulted two young girls after he lured them to stay with him in hotels between January 2016 and February 2017.
“He would do bad things to me when I was sleeping on the bed,” one survivor said to a jury at Leeds Crown Court via video message from Kenya, reported the Hull Daily Mail. "He used to tell me not to tell anyone what happened."

The Independent reports that Morris was arrested on his return to UK soil in February 2017 — and eventually convicted on four counts of rape, four counts of sexual assault, three counts of assault by penetration, and two counts of perverting the course of justice at Leeds Crown Court. 

He will serve 18 years and six months in jail.

“Keith Morris spent many years integrating himself into the local community in Kenya, making him a trusted figure to people that lived there,” said Graham Ellis, NCA operations manager. “He then abused this trust in the worst possible way.”

“Not only did he sexually abuse and rape vulnerable children but he attempted to manipulate and bribe them into helping him prove his innocence,” Ellis added. “Thankfully, those attempts failed and due to his victims’ courage Morris now faces significant jail time for his horrific crimes.”

But the road to his arrest was all sparked by that one instinctive phone call.

"Ultimately if there is nothing wrong then all you will do is cause someone a small amount of stress,” Bushell told the BBC. “But if there's something seriously wrong you may save someone's life or save them from the horrendous actions of someone that is quite monstrous.”

Sexual exploitation of children abroad is often called “sex tourism.” 

Anybody under the age of 18 is protected from sex tourism by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, a legally binding convention the UK is signed up to uphold.

Read More: UK Refuses Asylum to Former Child Slaves Despite Safety Fears

A report from Every Child Protected Against Trafficking (ECPAT) into the sexual exploitation of children split 38 respondents into four focus groups — and found that if holidaymakers suspected that child sex tourism was taking place 23% would mention it to their tour operator, 19% would report it to local police, 15% would tell their hotel, and just 3% would ignore it completely.

It’s a hidden crime, but as general tourism has soared from 527 million in 1995 to 1.1 billion in 2014, ECPAT has warned in further reports that such growth means there are more opportunities for offenders to pose a threat to children abroad than ever before.

"Gut feelings are important,” added Mike Canning, a manager at the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC). “If something doesn't feel right it's often because it isn't right.”

"We would encourage anyone who has got a concern to phone up and talk it through."