THE mother of a 13-year-old sexual abuse grooming victim has said her family has been “ripped apart” by the events.
Ian Croston, 49, of Whiston, was last week found guilty of three charges of sexual activity with a child and sentenced to seven years in prison.
Croston groomed and abused the girl, with whom he exchanged more than 9,000 text messages between late 2012 and June 2013, including 433 on a single day.
The victim’s family applauded as Judge Thomas Teague, QC, gave his sentence after the three-day trial at Liverpool Crown Court.
Croston, who was married, will also be on the sex offenders’ register for life, and is banned from having contact with any girl aged under 18.
The girl’s mother, 39, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said: “Nothing will turn back time and bring back my daughter’s childhood, but it’s good to know he won’t be on the streets for a long time.
“He was a family friend, someone we’d trusted. We didn’t have a clue what was going on.
“He seemed like a normal person, good with kids. He had taken us all in.
“It was when someone heard he’d texted my daughter late at night that we first got the feeling something was going on.”
After raising the alarm, police discovered that Croston had bombarded the schoolgirl with thousands of texts, as well as calls, during which they organised fishing trips and secret meetings at his mother’s graveside.
Her mother said: “Never in your wildest dreams would you think it could happen to your own daughter.
“They had been sending all these texts but had been deleting them to hide the evidence.”
She added: “It was horrendous when we found out what had been happening. As a parent, you want to protect your children so the guilt we felt was all consuming. You wonder why you didn’t see the signs.
“We won’t know what long-term effects this could have on her as it may not be until she’s older that it hits her. All we can do is our best to help her get through it.
“She is brave and has been amazing throughout the ordeal at court.”
She said: “It has ripped us apart as a family at times – a family being so close to being so distant; having to carry on at work with a smile, when really you are dying inside.”