Pensioner guilty of historic abuse of little girl

Crown Court

Crown Court

A pensioner with dementia has been found guilty of a string of rapes and indecent assaults he carried out on a little girl nearly 40 years ago.

Jurors at Preston Crown Court took seven hours to reach the verdicts in what prosecutors had branded a “nine year campaign of rape and sexual abuse”.

Defendant William Altham was deemed not fit enough to attend the proceedings against him through his trial, but was brought into the court for the verdicts.

In unusual circumstances, prosecutors were able to rely on his victim’s evidence and a police interview he gave in 2013 when he was still considered well.

The pensioner, of Bleasdale Street East, Deepdale, Preston, was on crown court bail through the case.

The 84-year-old was convicted of three rapes, an indecent assault and gross indecency with a child.

His victim, who is now grown up and cannot be identified for legal reasons, gave harrowing and graphic evidence of the abuse, which started when she was just seven.

She described to the court Altham, who would abuse her in her bedroom, told her she would not be believed.

In the 2013 interviews, played to jurors, Altham had initially denied abuse but later confirmed he used to “play a game” called Tommy Tickle Toe with her.

Judge Jacqueline Beech, who presided over the case, directed that Altham’s sentencing would take place on March 3.

She indicated she would accept a 10-2 majority guilty verdict.

The case will almost certainly give hope to hundreds of victims of historic abuse in similar situations.

Donna Houlton-Pinder, of Preston Police’s public protection unit, said: “The victim was understandably very upset, but relieved she had been believed by the jury.”