A PAEDOPHILE who preyed on five young girls in a decade of sex abuse, has been jailed for 14-and-a-half years by a judge who blasted his behaviour as ‘disgraceful’.

Albert Clarke, now a 67-year-old widower, subjected his victims to sex attacks between 2003 and 2013, but was only arrested in February last year, after one of the victims told her mother she had been touched by him.

Other victims then came forward and police inquiries revealed three children had been sexually assaulted by the defendant, Burnley Crown Court heard.

Two of the girls wrote about their secret ordeals in their diaries, as they were unable to tell any adults at the time, the hearing was told.

One of the children had not known what to do about her suffering at Clarke's hands.

Prosecutor Louise Kitchin told the court: “She said he never said anything while it happened, but it hurt her. She knew he was doing something wrong.”

Clarke, of Colne Road, Burnley, had earlier admitted five charges of sexual assault on a child under 13, six allegations of assault on a child under 13 by penetration and one count of indecency with a child. He was ordered to sign the sexual offenders register for life.

Miss Kitchin told the hearing the offences came to light in February last year. One of the victims had become withdrawn and was adamant she needed to speak to her mother.

Miss Kitchin said another victim had gone from a happy-go-lucky person to somebody with a number of problems.

The prosecutor said another victim told how the defendant had tried to 'snog her’ as well as performing indecent acts.

A further girl was video interviewed last June and told police she had been touched.

Miss Kitchin continued: “She found it, during the course of her interview, very difficult to speak. She dealt with the questions by writing answers in the officer’s book. She wrote that this defendant touched her in places she didn’t want to be touched.”

Joanna Rodikis, defending Clarke, said he had admitted culpability at a very early stage.

Miss Rodikis said: “But for this offending, he had lived a fairly unremarkable and normal life. He worked for over 40 years, he was married for over 30 years. But for these convictions, he would have had a fairly blameless existence.”

Sentencing, Judge Beverley Lunt told Clarke that to everyone who knew him, he had appeared to be a decent and respectable man. She added: “In fact, for 10 years you were a serial abuser of children.”

The judge said the only reason he had stopped was because one of the victims had told her mother and there was no reason to think he would not have continued to abuse the children.

Judge Lunt, who said the defendant had left a ‘trail of devastation’ by his behaviour, told him: “You denied any wrongdoing when you were arrested by the police, which was disgraceful.”