11:05AM, Thursday 21 February 2013
A convicted child sex offender given a leading role in an amateur theatre production has stepped down from the cast – which includes 14 children.
Reese York was due to play father-of-seven Captain Von Trapp in the Sound of Music, despite having been found guilty of committing child sex offences less than five years ago.
Directors of the Grimm Players theatre group are understood to have been aware of his background, although it is unclear exactly how much they had been told.
But they only passed on their knowledge to the parents of the young stars days ago, after his departure.
In an open conversation with the Advertiser, Mr York claimed he had been 100 per cent honest with the group about his past since day one, with the help of his Public Protection Unit officer – a trained police worker.
“I have never sought to deceive anybody,” he said.
“All I want to do is to live a normal life.”
He described leaving the musical as ‘heartbreaking’ but said he could not risk dragging the production down.
“They’re a terrific bunch of people,” he added.
Mr York was handed a prison sentence in 2008 for having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old boy.
Reports from the court hearing state he faced a number of charges under the name Rhys Young.
They included engaging in sexual activity with the boy and taking indecent photos of him.
The reports also say Mr York, who was living in Wiltshire at the time, has a previous conviction for a similar offence dating back to 1996, for which he was also jailed.
He declined to discuss any further details about this.
The judge in 2008 is also understood to have banned him from working with children for life and ordered him to be placed on the sexual offenders register for life.
In the Sound of Music, Captain Von Trapp’s children are aged between five and 16.
Two groups of young people from the Maidenhead area are taking it in turns to play the parts.
Performances were set to begin last night at the Desborough Suite at Maidenhead Town Hall.
The Advertiser was alerted to Mr York’s background by two members of the public who came forward to raise concerns, and immediately approached police with the information.
Mr York’s departure from the show came to light when his name disappeared from an online cast list.
Musical director Pippa Eden said: “We have 14 children who have worked their backsides off for six months on this and it would be a shame if anything printed in the press caused the show to be cancelled.”
The Grimm Players declined to comment any further on the issue, except to say the group always fully ensures the safeguarding of cast members.
The role of Captain Von Trapp in the show is now being performed by an understudy – and not Mr York.