A PAEDOPHILE child molester has been jailed for 23 years for child rapes and sexual assaults against three girls over 20 years.

David Wheatcroft raped one girl at least six times, the abuse beginning when she was just six years old.

The abuse against the three victims happened at various locations including near Worcester, in Kidderminster and Evesham. Harrowing victim personal statements were read out by Glyn Samuels who prosecuted the case.

The 45-year-old sex offender was convicted unanimously of the offences by a jury on Monday afternoon and sentenced by Judge Nicolas Cartwright this morning.

Wheatcroft, of St Michael's Close, Stourport, was convicted of the indecent assault of an eight-year-old girl between May 1998 and May 1999; sexual assault of a second child victim, aged between six and eight, between August 2011 and August 2016; a rape of that second victim between the same dates; at least five further rapes of that same victim, again between the same dates; and sexual assault of a third girl between December 2015 and December 2016.

In total judge Cartwright sentenced him to 22 years in prison with an extra year's licence period of one year added (a 23 year sentence). He must serve a minimum of two thirds of the sentence before being considered for release by the Parole Board.

The effect of this is that the sex offender must serve at least 14 years and four months as a minimum before he is even considered for release by the Parole Board. His release will not be automatic.

The defendant, who had been remanded in custody overnight after the guilty verdicts were returned by the foreman, showed little emotion when he learned his fate, three jurors returning to see what sentence he would receive. Judge Cartwright, sentencing, said: "David Wheatcroft, you plainly had a sexual interest in young girls for a very long time."

He described how one victim, aged just eight at the time, was asked for a cuddle before he stroked her intimately. "She knew something wrong had happened. Indeed, she reported it the next morning first thing. It's clear from that very day until the present she has been living with the consequences of that act for over 20 years."

Judge Cartwight told the defendant it was an aggravating feature that the assault had taken place in her own bedroom 'which is a place every child should regard as a place of safety'.

This victim came across Wheatcroft in Worcester 'by accident' which 'upset her considerably' and again at a funeral, an experience which left her 'distraught'.

He said of the second victim, who was raped by Wheatcroft: "It is appalling to think she is only 16 now. Already it has had a profound psychological impact upon her. She has had problems she has had to contend with for many years already. You raped her repeatedly when she was between six and eight years of age."

During one rape he barricaded the door. Judge Cartwright, laying out the background to the case, said Wheatcroft had also threatened to rape her in future and harm her family if she told anyone about what he had done.

He ruled that she had suffered severe psychological harm as a result.

Wheatcroft was told he had 'increased gradually the seriousness of what you were doing step by step' before showing her a pornographic film and raping her.

The judge said there could be no credit for plea as, instead of showing remorse, Wheatcroft had decided to 'brazen it out in a trial' despite all three victims being 'compelling' witnesses.

This abuse took place when one was already vulnerable because of her home life. The third victim was attacked in Leigh, near Worcester, Wheatcroft grabbing her bottom, kissing her inappropriately and making moaning noises in her ear.

A sexual harm prevention order was also made which will last for the rest of Wheatcroft's life which will run alongside the registration and notification provisions.

By this order he is prohibited from having any unsupervised contact with children under 16 other than is inadvertent or unavoidable in the course of daily life or with permission of the child's parent or guardian and with the express prior approval of social services for the area. He is prohibited from residing even for a single night at any temporary or permanent accommodation at which there resides, at that time, any child under 16 unless prior agreement is is given by social services for the area or a representative of the chief constable for that area.

The victim of the child rapes, who cannot be identified, attended court to see her abuser jailed. After the hearing she said: "I'm just happy he won't be able to hurt other girls in the future and they won't have to go through what any of us went through."

The officer in the case, who supported the victim at court, was DC Sarah Turner.