A ‘feared’ evangelical pastor, Michael Oluronbi, who used his trusted position to abuse children and adults over 20 years has been jailed for 34 years after his conviction for multiple rapes of members of his congregation.
Self-styled prophet Michael Oluronbi, originally from Nigeria and living in Birmingham, was found guilty of the offences against six women and a man in January, actions described by a judge as ‘one of the worst cases of sexual abuse of multiple children to come before the courts’.
Some of his offences were carried out after he convinced victims, five of whom attended his church, to take part in ‘spiritual bathing’, which he claimed would ‘cleanse’ them of evil spirits.
During the trial at Birmingham Crown Court, a jury heard that some of his young female victims became pregnant multiple times but were taken to abortion clinics by qualified pharmacist Oluronbi, to cover up what was happening.
He was convicted of 15 counts of rape, seven counts of indecent assault and two counts of sexual assault – as his sentencing hearing heard there were at least 88 separate occasions on which he raped his victims.
Judge Sarah Buckingham said the real purpose of the ‘spiritual baths’ was to ‘fulfil your insatiable sexual appetite’.
The 60-year-old’s wife Juliana was jailed for 11 years after being found guilty of three counts of aiding and abetting rape after helping arrange some of the terminations.
Both defendants will be required to sign the sex offenders’ register for life.
Sentencing ‘arrogant’ Oluronbi on Friday, Judge Buckingham said: ‘You claimed that God was instructing you to conduct holy baths.
‘Its real purpose was to fulfil your insatiable sexual appetite. The children feared you and this enable you to continue your grip.
‘Your offending has had an extreme and severe impact on all of your complainants. Any attempt to suggest otherwise would be without foundation.
‘You abused your position of trust – they trusted you like God.’
The judge continued: ‘You did this because you are an arrogant, selfish and vain man.
‘In my judgment, your offending must be one of the worst cases of sexual abuse of multiple children to come before the courts.’
The religious leader was brought to justice after one of his victims, now an adult, came forward.
When eventually confronted about his offences, Oluronbi said ‘the devil made me do it’.
In statements read to the court by the prosecution, one of the victims said the defendant’s actions made her ‘question if my life was worth living’.
During the trial, jurors heard Oluronbi was linked to a Christian church in Edgbaston, Birmingham, the Cherubim and Seraphim Church, whose roots were in Nigeria.
He set up on his own splinter group for about 40 adults and children, separate to the church and located at another address, where he began a practice of ‘spiritual bathing’.
The offences took place in Birmingham and London.
Phil Bradley QC, prosecuting, told the jury: ‘The Crown’s case is that Mr Oluronbi used what he called ‘spiritual work’ as a subterfuge for that sexual abuse.
‘The main tactic he employed was to claim that God had instructed him to administer ‘holy baths’ to some of his congregation in order to ‘cleanse’ them and protect them from evil influences.
‘That activity began when his victims were children. There can be no doubt that its real purpose was to serve his sexual gratification.’
He added that for some of the female victims the offending ‘progressed to repeated rapes, on many occasions leading to unwanted pregnancies and terminations’.
‘You will learn that this man, who was revered and feared by his victims, kept a vice-like grip on many of them and continued to abuse them well into adulthood,’ Mr Bradley said.
Oluronbi’s victims described him as ‘controlling’ and ‘almost like a king’.
The offending happened over a period of 20 years, at various locations, going back to the 1980s.
Oluronbi was arrested at Birmingham Airport in May last year, while trying to leave the country for Nigeria with some of his ceremonial belongings and a sum of cash.
Police are unable to say whether he was trying to flee justice, but pointed out he had recently been confronted about the abuse by one of his victims.
For his victims, the ordeal has taken a ‘massive’ physical and mental toll, detectives said.
Describing Oluronbi as ‘intelligent’, Detective Superintendent Nick Walton of West Midlands Police said the pastor ‘laughed’ in court on several occasions while giving evidence in his own defence.
Mr Walton said Oluronbi had been working as a pastor until his arrest in May 2019.
Police also believe there could be more victims and have urged anyone with information to get in touch.
In a confession videoed last year by a victim’s family member who had confronted him, the ‘feared’ pastor is heard saying: ‘Everything was just my fault, and as I said before, I wasn’t meant to be human.
‘I wasn’t meant to live under the roof of any human being and I said that I was an animal.’
The footage was released by West Midlands Police after the trial.
The victim’s relative is then heard, off-camera, asking the pastor: ‘You know I said that you are a paedophile? Everyone knows that you’re a paedophile. You know that that’s the name they give to your type?’
Oluronbi, who appears on camera in a formal shirt and tie speaking animatedly, raising his hands but with his eyes shut, then replies: ‘Fine.’
He also claims the devil made him carry out the abuse.
Despite the recording, Oluronbi denied any wrongdoing during the trial, forcing his victims to give evidence against him during nine weeks of legal proceedings.
He even laughed in the witness box while giving his own evidence.