A MAN who abused two young girls over a seven-year period has been jailed for 18 years.

Wayne O’Donnell, 55, of Pinfold Avenue, Sherburn-in-Elmet, was sentenced at Teesside Crown Court for four counts of rape, four counts of sexual assault, seven counts of taking indecent images of a child and one count of possessing an indecent image of a child.

O’Donnell had pleaded not guilty to the crimes, which took place between 2005 and 2012, but at a trial the jury rejected his claims and convicted him of the offences.

The two victims were of primary school age when the abuse began, and detectives have said that O’Donnell’s control over them was so strong that one even gave evidence on his behalf, claiming the abuse was committed by someone else. Detective Constable John Atkinson led the investigation and has praised the victims for their courage, and said he hoped they could now get on with their lives.

He said: “I must pay tribute to O’Donnell’s victim who, after enduring years of sexual abuse, was brave enough not only to come forward and tell the police about it, but to then stand up and face him in court and give evidence.

“I would also like to thank the victim’s extended family who have supported her through this long process and hoped O’Donnell would be seen for the devious and highly dangerous offender that he is. The fact he managed to persuade another girl to give evidence on his behalf, shows how manipulative O’Donnell truly is.”

The full extent of his heinous crimes was recognised by Simon Bourne-Arton QC, Recorder of Middlesbrough, who jailed O’Donnell for 18 years, DC Atkinson added. He said: “This sentence shows that even if abuse took place years before the victim reports it, those responsible can be brought to justice for their offences.

“If you have been a victim of abuse there is no need to suffer in silence. Come forward and let us help you.”