Dramatic encounters staged by a medieval re-enactment society were a front for its leading player to sexually molest women, a jury was told today.

Described as the driving force behind the Lion Rampant Medieval Display Society, 78-year-old Trevor Pilling, from Chesham, is suspected of using his costume cloak to wrap himself around women and then grope them under the cover of the cape.

The alleged sexual attacks were revealed to a jury of six women and six men at Aylesbury Crown Court on Wednesday as Pilling started a three-week trial accused of a dozen sexual assaults on eight women over a period of 25 years.

The court heard that Pilling's daughter was so sickened by her father's behaviour that when the women told her of his alleged crimes, she reported him to the police.

Kim Preston, prosecuting, said that white-haired Pilling had been regarded as a "pillar of the community" until his alleged secret persona was exposed when some of the women victims decided to speak up. 

"Sexual menace" Pilling is accused of preying on vulnerable women while a member of the Bucks-based medieval re-enactment society during rehearsals, in hotels and even in their own homes. 

Ms Preston said that Pilling had been a "significant member" of The Lion Rampant Medieval Display Society. 

She said: "The defendant was a man that was held in quite high regard in his community.

"He was much-respected by those he met - and those involved - as being a leading light in that society. He used his position and used that charismatic trusted role, in different ways on a number of different women over the years."

The prosecutor added: "He took advantage of the circumstances to take advantage of particular types of women - particularly those that were in a vulnerable part of their life, or physically vulnerable."

An alleged victim, who was aged in her 20s at the time, claimed she stayed over at his house one weekend, only to wake up one morning to see Pilling standing at the end of her bed wearing just his dressing gown.

The jury heard that on another occasion during a pantomime rehearsal, Pilling stood behind one woman and groped her breasts.

Miss Preston said the victim was left frozen and shocked by the defendant, a man she had come to respect.

The jury was told that Pilling "encircled" women with his large medieval cloak during medieval re-enactments so he could cup their breasts and then carried on as if nothing had happened.

"It is something he later did quite regularly and it had even been known as 'encircling'," said Miss Preston.

She told the court that Pilling had created such a reputation by the mid-1990s that other women had warned each other not to be left alone with him or be encircled by his cloak.

On one occasion, he placed his hand on the back of one woman, who had recently had an operation and told her he had "healing hands" that could heal her and that he could see a shadow on her back.

Miss Preston said the victim thought it was preposterous and silly and declined the offer.

"On another occasion he slid his hand down on her back and bottom and pinched her buttocks," said the prosecutor.

"She said he was crossing a line she didn't want him to cross and she felt uncomfortable. She was lacking in confidence of speaking out against him, but she moved away and gave him a rather wide berth."

It was claimed Pilling would also carry out "crystal healing treatments" at his house - while his wife was present - on women in order to sexually assault them.

One of the victims telephoned Pilling to berate him about his "squalid" and "opportunistic" behaviour. She told him "if you ever touch me again there will be consequences."

When interviewed by officers, Pilling said, in a prepared statement, that the accusations were untrue but refused to answer any other questions.

"These offences spanning a 25-year period from the early 1980s to 2007 show this defendant as a sexual menace," said Miss Preston.

"He has been indecently assaulting both young and older women, as well as women he has come into contact with. Then with these treatments - I don't want to call them bogus as he might have spiritual talents - with women aged in their 40s, 50s and even approaching their 60s."

Pilling, of Lycrome Lane, Chesham, denies a total of 12 counts of indecent and sexual assaults on eight women between 1982 and 2007.

The trial, which is expected to last three weeks, continues.