A sexual predator who subjected three young girls to years of abject suffering has been jailed for 30 years after a jury found him guilty of multiple counts of rape and sexual assault.
Graham Howard, 47, claimed the girls were lying but the overwhelming evidence stacked against him led to a jury returning unanimous guilty verdicts on all 18 charges he had denied.
They included multiple rapes and indecent assaults on the victims – one of whom was just six years old when the abuse began, York Crown Court heard.
Over a period of about 10 years, the girls were subjected to horrific sexual assaults at properties in Scarborough, York and Selby.
The evidence presented to the court was so horrific that one juror was reduced to tears.
Howard - formerly of Scarborough but now living in Knottingley, West Yorkshire - denied all charges including 11 counts of rape, as well as gross indecency with a child, causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity and indecent assault.
The victims - none of whom can be named for legal reasons - were systematically abused between the late 1990s and about 2009.
Prosecutor Mike Greenhalgh said that Howard, who at the time worked at the Rowntree factory in York, offered the victims treats such as chocolate, sweets and magazines if they kept quiet about his sickening crimes.
One victim said: “You couldn’t tell anybody because he always told you not to. He said he would just deny (the abuse).”
She said Howard forced her to carry out sex acts on him, adding: “I just froze. I didn’t know what I was doing.”
She didn’t tell anyone initially because she was “in denial, just scared, having (had) it drilled into my head that I couldn’t tell anyone”.
The girl, who began self-harming by her early teens, added: “He’d buy you things: sweets, magazines; give you money. Most of the time it was after… sex. You’d get treats for that.”
One of the victims said Howard “really creeped me out” and would often whistle at her. During one attack she was screaming with fear.
Each of the girls was raped multiple times and made to perform degrading sexual acts on Howard.
One of them said she had turned to drink and drugs in her early teens because she was struggling to cope following years of abuse.
“I had no confidence and became very timid,” she added. “When (Howard) was hurting me and sexually abusing me, I used to be so hurt and confused. I was too scared to tell anyone what was happening to me. It wasn’t until I got older that I realised that what he was doing to me was wrong.”
One by one, the girls came forward to police in about 2017 but even though Howard was finally brought to justice, they said their lives had been ruined.
One of the victims said she had suffered from depression and anxiety and still had nightmares about her childhood, as well as flashbacks to the abuse.
The girl said Howard had “destroyed my life” and even though she had managed to turn it around with the help of counselling, it was “going to take a long time to recover from what he did to me”.
Another victim said: “I was a small child, young and defenceless. At a young age I started to self-harm because I felt it was the only way to release the pain. I had anxiety and depression to the point where I couldn’t sleep at night. As an adult I still get nightmares about what happened.”
At the adjourned sentence hearing on Friday, judge Sean Morris labelled Howard a “vile” sexual “deviant” who had used the girls as his “sexual play-things”.
“You are a very dangerous man to young children and women,” he added.
He said that Howard - who had pleaded guilty to three separate charges related to the abuse of the same children before the trial - had put the girls through “mental torture” and had shown no remorse.
Howard, of Croft Avenue, Knottingley, showed no emotion as the judge handed down the 30-year sentence.
He was told he must serve at least two-thirds of the 25-year custodial element of the sentence, with an extended five-year period on prison licence. It means his very earliest release date will be in 16 years’ time, when he will be 63.
He was also placed on the sex-offenders’ register for life and made subject to a sexual-harm prevention order which bans him having any unsupervised contact with under-age children.
Detective Constable Rosie Rogers, of Scarborough CID, said after the hearing: “This is one of the worst cases of child abuse I have ever dealt with. No child should have to go through the terror and pain that they suffered at (Howard’s) hands.”