‘Eastenders’ abuser faces prison

CONVICTED: Robert Hayes-Danson
CONVICTED: Robert Hayes-Danson
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An agricultural engineer has been convicted of indecently assaulting a youngster – who reported the abuse after watching a controversial EastEnders storyline.

Robert Hayes-Danson now faces a lengthy term in prison after being found guilty of nine counts of indecently assaulting the schoolgirl in the 1990s, and two of engaging in sexual activity with her.

The victim, now in her 30s, only realised she had been groomed by the 46-year-old when she identified with a plot line years later in BBC1 soap EastEnders, in which 12-year-old Whitney Dean was sexually exploited by an older man. She later contacted the police.

The woman then faced the ordeal of having to give evidence twice at Preston Crown Court, as administrative difficulties led to one jury being discharged and another sworn in for the three-week trial.

Danson was convicted of 11 counts against her yesterday, but cleared of two further counts of indecently assaulting two other women when they were also in their teens.

Married dad-of-two Danson, of Birch Avenue, Newton-with-Scales, was warned to “get his affairs in order” for a prison term when he returns to court for sentence on the week of September 29.

As the verdicts were returned, Danson looked up at the ceiling shaking his head, as his wife and family sobbed in the public gallery.

Judge Jacqueline Beech told him: “You have been convicted of some very serious sexual offences.

“You have effectively stolen her childhood and you should be ashamed of yourself.

“You will be sentenced to a sentence of imprisonment. Put your affairs in order for that sentencing hearing.”

The court heard that over a number of years, Danson took the youngster, then aged 12 to 14 or 15, on trips to local shops. Once he told her not to tell his wife about a bottle of Tribe perfume he bought her from Duty Free in the St George’s Shopping Centre.

He would engineer opportunities to sexually abuse the schoolgirl, offering her lifts in his van and allowing her to visit his then home in Woodplumpton, near Preston, while his wife was at work at Clarks shoe shop in the city.

The pair would watch videos including Cape Fear, Basic Instinct and The Hand That Rocked The Cradle.

But the first time Danson had sex with the girl, she said they were almost disturbed by his wife and she started to put distance between herself and her abuser.

In 1993, Danson had a breakdown which left the youngster wracked with guilt.

She said: “I thought it was my fault. All this was going on before and I was petrified. I thought I had caused him to have this breakdown. I was so scared someone would find out.

It was only when the woman – an avid soaps fan was watching a controversial Eastenders storyline in which Whitney was groomed by her mother’s imprisoned boyfriend Tony King that she recognised Danson’s treatment of her was also abuse.

She said: “I never thought he groomed me. I just thought I was having an affair with him and betraying his wife.”

A spokesman for the victim said: “We are just relieved it is all over.”

Danson declined to comment.