A Co Fermanagh man was jailed for 14 years yesterday for the rape of a nine-year-old child during a game of hide-and-seek.
Richard Francis was found guilty after a 10-day trial at Dungannon Crown Court in May.
Francis (37), of Willougby Place, Enniskillen, had denied two counts of rape and two counts of sexual assault on various dates during 2006.
The jury heard how the abuse began during a game of hide-and-seek.
Francis later re-established contact with the victim, who challenged him about his behaviour and he claimed to have thought she "wanted him to".
She told him: "You are as bad as Jimmy Savile."
Then aged 26, he first sexually abused the child in a shed when the girl played with other children while visiting a relative.
Francis lived nearby and often joined in playing, despite a significant age gap, and the jury was told that during the game "he would do the counting" as the children went and hid.
During one game of hide-and-seek, Francis took her into a shed, where he touched her chest under her T-shirt, and warned her to tell no one. The next occasion she found herself in the shed with Francis, and his behaviour escalated to rape.
During another incident, she was playing with Francis' younger sister in their home. To ensure they "would not be disturbed" he locked his sister in her bedroom before raping the youngster.
The abuse ceased, but after several years Francis initiated text contact. Some of these exchanges, which he denied sending, were read in court.
He asked why the victim never came to his area anymore. On being rebuffed, he asked why she was angry with him. The victim challenged Francis, stating: "I was nine. You raped me."
He replied, "I'm sorry... I hope to be dead soon."
The victim said, "Sorry isn't good enough... was I the only one you raped?"
Francis said: "Yes. I thought you wanted me to."
She replied: "I was nine. I wanted to be the queen then."
When Francis asked what she wanted him to do, she said: "I don't care what you do... you should be in prison you ignorant, arrogant, rapist c***. You are as bad as Jimmy Savile."
Defence lawyers disputed the prosecution case, branding the victim an accomplished liar, but the jury rejected this, returning guilty verdicts on all counts after deliberating for around an hour.
Passing sentence at Dungannon Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, Judge Neil Rafferty QC said a victim report showed that the complainant has suffered "severe psychological harm" as result of the sexual assaults.
The judge noted that while the report was being compiled the victim "cried" and she had "difficulty in coming to terms with what happened to her".
Judge Rafferty said the prosecution had outlined a number of aggravating factors in the case.
These included the fact that the victim was very young; she was vulnerable, and that there was a significant age difference between her and the defendant.
The judge said he believed the first incident was "opportunistic", but stated that there was also "some degree of premeditation to develop the modus operandi" regarding the other offences.
As part of his sentencing exercise Judge Rafferty said he had considered whether to impose a custody probation order. But he decided "it would not be appropriate in this case as it is very difficult to identify what such an order would hope to achieve".
Judge Rafferty jailed Francis for 14 years for one count of rape and sentenced him to 14 years concurrent on the second rape charge.
He also sentenced him to 30 months concurrent on each count of indecent assault.
Francis was also made the subject of Sexual Offences Prevention Order for a period of 15 years, was banned from working with children and vulnerable adults and was ordered to have no contact with a child under the age of 16.
The judge told him that he would be "the subject of inclusion on the sex offenders' register until further order".