A Bradford councillor has told a jury that allegations that he molested two 11-year-old girls have left him "absolutely devastated".

Bob Hargreaves, 62, is accused of groping the youngsters in a butcher's shop about 14 years ago.

But giving evidence at his trial at Bradford Crown Court yesterday, Hargreaves, Liberal Democrat councillor for the Undercliffe and Bolton ward denied that he had ever acted inappropriately.

He was asked by his barrister Simon Phillips: "Did you ever engage in any sexual activity with anyone in the shop?"

"Never," Hargreaves replied.

Asked how the allegations made him feel, Hargreaves responded: "Absolutely devastated."

He told the jury that he had never given either of the complainants any money and had never asked for any sexual favours.

Hargreaves also refuted suggestions that there was pornographic material in the shop.

The prosecution has alleged that Hargreaves, of Buttermere Road, Upper Bolton, Bradford, started to abuse the first complainant in the early 1990s.

The jury has heard that he got the girl to perform a sex act on him and would then pay her £3 and warn her not to tell anybody.

He is also alleged to have abused a second girl in similar circumstances.

Neither of the complainants can be identified for legal reasons.

Prosecutor Sharon Beattie has told the court that the abuse stopped when he tried to rape the first girl. She made a complaint to the police in 2004. Hargreaves was arrested in February 2005 but maintained his innocence throughout the police interviews.

He labelled the girls' allegations as "a total load of rubbish" and said that the first girl had tried to blackmail him.

He was asked why she would do this and Hargreaves said that it could be because he is a councillor and people think that councillors have a lot money.

Hargreaves, who has no previous convictions, has pleaded not guilty to charges of indecency with a child, indecent assault and attempted rape.

From the witness box he told the jury yesterday that he sold his once successful business after similar allegations were made against him in 1994.

The case never came to trial, but he said that he lost a lot of customers.

A former school governor, Hargreaves has also run a funeral directors and a limousine hire company.

He was elected to the Council in May 2004 but suspended from the Liberal Democrat group when the allegations came to light.

The trial continues.

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