Judge condemned his ‘breathtaking depravity’
A MAN from Strood has been sentenced to life in prison after he admitted a 34-year catalogue of sexual abuse on girls as young as six.
Richard Songhurst was sentenced by a judge at Maidstone Crown Court on 28 November after he pleaded guilty to 29 sexual offences across Strood and the Isle of Grain on 17 October in what the judge described as ‘one of the worst cases imaginable’.
Songhurst’s depravity only came to light when one of his victims plucked up the courage to come forward to police in 2013 – more than three decades after he began abusing.
The 50-year-old systematically abused one of his victims from primary school age and began raping her from as young as ten. At one point he was abusing her every day and forcing her into sexual activity with other children while he watched.
Specialist detectives from Kent Police began investigating and uncovered four other victims over four decades, all of whom had been abused before they turned ten. The youngest was just six when Songhurst assaulted her. Officers spent months tracing back Songhurst’s activities and building up a dossier of evidence against him.
Songhurst was arrested on 20 October last year and confronted about his crimes. He told detectives that he felt his abuse had created an ‘intimacy’ with his victims.
He was charged with seven counts of rape and 22 counts of various sexual assault on children under the age of 13 and remanded to court.
Sentencing him to life in prison with a minimum tariff of seven-and-a-half years, Judge David Griffiths-Jones described the offences as demonstrating ‘breathtaking depravity’ and said the case was ‘one of the worst cases imaginable of its times to come before this court’.
Investigating officer, Detective Constable John Milham, said: “Richard Songhurst’s sexual abuse of children has spanned four decades. He abused children from at least the early 1980s right up until the present day.
“Songhurst coerced, conditioned and manipulated his victims for many years, until one found the strength to approach police. She came forward out of fear that Songhurst would be abusing another child. When we began to investigate, we uncovered a sickening history and these charges cover at least 100 incidents, many of them rapes of children.
“Songhurst told us in interview that he thought his actions had created a special bond between him and his victims. Nothing could be further from the truth. His crimes have had a devastating impact on his victims and that can never be taken back.
“I would like to pay tribute to all the victims who found the strength to stop Songhurst’s reign of abuse. If they hadn’t, I am of the opinion that he would certainly have continued to sexually abuse other children.
“This was a complex, harrowing and extensive investigation and I welcome the news Songhurst will be behind bars where children can be safe from his depravity.”
Det Con Milham added: “Kent Police has several specialist Child Protection Teams across the county, If anyone knows of a child being abused or if someone reading this hers been the victim of child abuse then I urge you to contact Kent Police on 101. You will always be listened to and treated with the utmost sensitivity and compassion.’