A woman who was repeatedly abused by her sister’s husband from the age of 12 today waived her right to anonymity, to expose a campaign of hatred her family have been subjected to since his conviction.
Kirsty Clark was just 12 years old when she was groomed by her brother-in-law Robert Hayes-Danson, 47, who lived in Woodplumpton, near Preston, until the offences came to light.
It took her more than two decades to gain the courage to report her attacker, fearing nobody would believe her because the married father-of-three was seen as a pillar of the community.
But he was jailed for 10 years in October after an 11-strong jury found him guilty of nine indecent assaults and two counts of sexual activity with a child, following a five-week trial at Preston Crown Court.
Throughout the case, the mum-of-two and her family, who still live in Woodplumpton, have been subjected to online abuse and anonymous letters.
Kirsty waived her right of anonymity, after shocked residents passed flyers to the Evening Post showing supporters of the convicted sex offender had organised a fundraising hotpot supper and 23-mile vehicle rally - passing her home.
Kirsty described how people she had considered friends shunning her in the playground, while others had posted: “Rot in hell” and “scum of the village” on internet sites.
On the day Hayes Danson was sentenced, Judge Jacqueline Beech also condemned a number of villagers who wrote “utterly inappropriate” letters to both the victim and the court, criticising the verdict.
In tears, Kirsty said: “I didn’t come forward for a long time because I just knew no-one would believe me.
“It took the birth of my daughter and watching a TV storyline about grooming to make me realise that what he did was wrong. I had tried to cope with it.
“I remember him holding my baby girl and feeling like I had been hit with a sledgehammer. I wanted her away from him.
“People who I thought were my friends don’t believe me - people with their own children - it’s devastating.”
Kirsty confided in her sister Nicola and husband Darren in 2012. Nicola, a mum-of-two said: “I watched her falling apart. Some days she was so depressed she physically couldn’t get up.”
Kirsty added: “None of the people supporting him see this side of it, see what we are going through, my children asking why I’m crying. People must think I woke up one morning and decided to make up a story about my sister’s husband.
“It’s unbelievable that people are rallying around organising a hotpot supper to support a paedophile’s release, it just shows how people can be manipulated.”
Her mother, in her 60s, has had hate mail posted through her door. Kirsty added she was distressed at abusive comments on Facebook.
A copy of a poster advertising the vehicle rally has been sent to local businesses, but does not say what it is in aid of.
A reporter rang the number provided to enquire about the event, and was told it was in aid of an “appeal”, but the man who answered refused to divulge further information, adding: “All will be revealed on the day”.
When the Evening Post later spoke to Hayes-Danson’s mother Barbara, she said: “A local man called David Martin has organised it and we are supporting it. The money will go towards an appeal fund for Mr Hayes-Danson. I am his mother and proud of it.”
When asked why enquirers were not being told what the event was funding until the day, she replied: “We aren’t telling everyone who rings what it is about unless they give their name and address. The people that are attending know what it’s for.”
David Martin, the organiser of the Fylde Vintage and Farm Show, told The Evening Post he was “just allowing them to use the showground” and that the defendant’s family had organised it - but when pressed for further details, he put the phone down.
DS Steve Hooper, the investigating officer in the case, said: “It is disappointing that, despite 11 people finding this man guilty after a five-week trial, people still disbelieve the victim.
“This event appears to be misleading to the public and distressing for Kirsty and her family. Even though the proceedings have finished, it isn’t over for them.”