25 life terms for 'British Fritzl'

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A man who repeatedly raped his two daughters was jailed for life today at Sheffield Crown Court. He made them pregnant 19 times and seven of the children are still alive.

The 56-year-old will serve a minimum term of 19 and a half years after receiving 25 life sentences for a campaign of abuse spanning more than quarter of a century, starting when his children were eight and 10.

The defendant refused to attend today's sentencing hearing, during which the court heard he had fathered five children by his youngest daughter and two by his eldest.

Two of the eldest daughter's babies died the day they were born, the court heard. Between them his daughters suffered five miscarriages and five terminations and doctors advised them not to have any more children by the man they did not know then to be their father.

Judge Alan Goldsack QC said: "The phrase 'it is difficult to imagine a worse case' is much overused and rarely, if ever, true. I am not going to say no case of rape within a family situation will ever come to light.

"But I can say that in nearly 40 years of dealing with criminal cases and 14 as a family judge the combination of aggravating circumstances here is the worst I have come across."

He added: "I have little doubt that many members of the public hearing the facts of this case will consider either you should never be released from prison or only when you are old and infirm. I agree with that view.

"A criminal justice system which does not reflect the views of the silent majority of the public does not deserve to have its confidence.

"For centuries the maximum sentence available for rape has been life imprisonment. That is the sentence I pass, concurrent on each count of rape, with no separate penalty for the indecent assaults."

He "took pleasure" in knowing the harm he was doing to his two daughters and threatened them with a "real hiding" if they refused to have sex with him, the court heard.

The defendant, who called himself the "gaffer", made his elder daughter pregnant seven times, fathering two children by her. She bore two other babies but they died the day they were born.

He made his younger daughter pregnant 12 times. She has five surviving children, the court heard.

The defendant, from Sheffield, who cannot be named for legal reasons, admitted 25 rapes and four indecent assaults last month.

The court heard that the defendant also had a son, who lived with them until his teenage years.

Nicholas Campbell QC said: "All the defendant's children spoke of his domination over their family life.

"He was tall and strongly built.

"I quote him: He was 'the main gaffer', he called himself the gaffer and he liked to think that he was a hard man.

"All the family were frightened of him. When they heard his car pulling up outside the house, the children and their mother ran to their respective rooms.

"His son described him as having a Jekyll and Hyde personality and that his dad had a one-second fuse and that he could flip and turn just with the click of his fingers."

The court heard that the sexual abuse started when the two sisters reached the age of eight but that they only realised the other was being abused when they became pregnant some years later.

Their father has already been compared with the Austrian rapist Josef Fritzl, who kept his daughter locked in a dungeon for 24 years as he fathered seven children with her.

Mr Campbell said: "His younger daughter told of the frightening habit her father had of putting her head next to the flames of their gas fire and that when she struggled to get away on certain occasions she burnt her eyes.

"The sisters recall that they were kept from school when they bore physical injuries. The defendant also ensured that his family were kept isolated and that there were very few visitors to the home.

"Rather than having babysitters, the children recall being locked in their rooms when their mother and father went out.

"They moved from South Yorkshire to Lincolnshire and lived in small, isolated villages.

"Even then there was speculation and talk from the neighbours about the growing family but the lack of any other men apart from the man who called himself the grandfather."

The court heard that in 1988 suspicions were raised at the victims' school due to their injuries but these were blamed on bullying.

One of the ways the defendant prevented his children from alerting the police or social services was by telling them they would have their children taken from them.

During one incident in 1998, he kicked and punched his younger daughter for meeting up with the son of one of her neighbours.

He then attacked his eldest daughter, holding a knife to her throat, before claiming: "It's never going to end. You have to do what you are told."

The women then called Childline and asked for a guarantee that they could keep their children but when one was not offered they ended the call.

Mr Campbell said: "When either one of his victims tried to end the sexual abuse, he threatened to kill them and their children, and when they threatened to tell police, he said they would not be believed.

"He said that if they went public then the children would be taken away from them.

"All the time, when the sisters were challenged about the paternity of their children, they would cover it up.

"They started taking the pill. He said they should not be taking it and, just as they felt unable to avoid his sexual abuse, they obeyed.

"They spoke of his pleasure at fathering their children whilst at the same time they had fears for the welfare of these children and how they would cope."

At one stage towards the end of the abuse, the defendant offered his younger daughter £500 to have another child with him.

The court heard the defendant would look at his daughters in a way that threatened violence if they refused to sleep with him. The youngest daughter said: "The look would terrify me and I knew I would get a good hiding."

Mr Campbell, prosecuting, added: "When he began the abuse he told each victim she must tell no one and it was their secret to be shared only between father and daughter.

"The victims were too frightened to tell anyone, even their mother. They did not consider the possibility that each may be enduring the same fate until the pregnancies began."

The court heard that in the early 1990s the defendant moved with his two daughters, wife and son to Lincolnshire. But shortly after the move his wife left him. The father continued to share a council house with his two daughters and son but he made the teenage boy sleep on the landing outside the bedrooms he shared with his victims.

The court heard that in 50 per cent of cases where a father and child or brother and sister have a baby, severe illness, premature death or learning disabilities will occur.

The court heard that on a number of occasions doctors advised the women to stop having children by the same father.

On one occasion a doctor asked one of the women whether her father was also the father of her child. She flatly denied the accusation.

Mr Campbell said: "The defendant played Russian roulette as to whether there would be complications in the pregnancies and with the health of his daughters."

The court heard that on the first occasion he got his elder daughter pregnant he punched and kicked her in the stomach as he said that was one way of getting rid of the baby.

But once the child was born and he was not discovered to be the father, he did not violently attack his daughters when they became pregnant.

The court heard that the defendant would stop raping his daughters only after they had either given birth or suffered a miscarriage or termination.

In a statement read to the court by Mr Campbell, the younger daughter said: "He continued to beat me if I didn't do what he said and I would get a good hiding. There was the look, a piercing look, an evil look."

The daughters were banned from seeing boys and on the occasions they received male admirers, they were violently attacked by their father.

On one occasion the elder daughter had her arm broken while the younger daughter still has burn marks to her arm which were noticed by her school but blamed on bullying.

The court heard the daughters were raped every three days at times during their ordeal.

Mr Campbell said: "One sister would babysit the other children while the other was being raped.

"One of them did try to offer him £100 a month to stop and paid it from her child benefit.

"That went on for two to three months."

The court heard that they tried to give their father as much whisky as he wanted so he would drink himself to death.

But it was not until last summer that the younger daughter managed to flee her father's grasp.

The last time the defendant saw his elder daughter was when he was in hospital in January.

James Baird, defending, said a serious case review had been launched.

The man will be sentenced later.