Judge jails 88-year-old 'sexual-deviant' for six years for abusing girls

Eric Snowden
Eric Snowden

An 88-year-old man has been jailed for six years for sexually abusing young girls in the 1970s.

Eric Sowden, of Columbus Ravine, Scarborough, groomed the six youngsters and showered them with gifts such as sweets. He now faces spending the rest of his days behind bars.

York Crown Court heard that the under-age girls, now adults, had been severely affected by the paedophile’s wicked crimes.

Sowden appeared for sentence on Tuesday after pleading guilty to several counts of sex abuse including indecent assault and gross indecency with a child. The pensioner, looking frail and wearing a hearing loop, knew that a long jail sentence was inevitable.

Prosecutor Dan Cordey said the offences occurred over one summer in the late 1970s at a property in York where Sowden had lured the very-young girls.

He described Sowden, who lived in the York at the time, as a “manipulative” child predator who used treats to exploit the girls sexually.

Sowden had used “childish games” such as hide-and-seek and mock “medical examinations” of the girls - in one instance pretending to check for chicken pox - as a prelude to sexually abusing them.

He gave one of the girls money for sweets and “bribed” her with gifts of books and other items from his workplace. Another girl was showered with gifts “to buy her silence”.

The court heard that Sowden was charged only recently because, although some of the girls had come forward with complaints years ago, nothing came of it.

The victims, some of whom were in court to see their tormentor sentenced, gave moving victim statements about their ordeal and the terrible effect it had had on their lives.

One victim said: “He stole my childhood innocence. I still have feelings of being ashamed. I thought I had put all this behind me, but (the court proceedings) have reopened old wounds. He went for so many years unpunished.”

Another victim said her “precious” childhood innocence had been “stolen” by her abuser. The abuse had affected her relationships to this day and had “shattered” her life.

“This has torn my family apart,” she said. “Sowden has been able to live a full life, seemingly without remorse. There should have been reparations made years ago. He has not only hurt me as a child, but hurt me as an adult ever since.”

Mr Cordey said Sowden told police that the girls were making the whole thing up.

The court heard that Sowden had a previous conviction for sexually abusing girls from 1988. He served a three-year prison sentence for those offences, which happened after his serial sex abuse of the six youngsters in the reopened case.

His barrister Laura Addy said Sowden had to retire from work after his previous conviction and his marriage fell apart.

She said Sowden realised that he “may well end his days” in prison because of his deteriorating health.

“He faces perhaps his twilight years in a very difficult environment,” she added. “He says he is scared of going to custody.”

Judge Andrew Stubbs QC said Sowden had groomed the youngsters to fulfil “your sexually-deviant desires on these very-young children”.

Jailing Sowden for six years, he told him: “This has had a lasting impact on your victims - you are an offender of particular concern.”

Sowden was also placed on the sex-offenders’ register for life.