A paedophile has been jailed for 19 years after a school dinner lady overheard a six-year-old victim talking about the abuse.
She was so alarmed by what she heard she reported it to the school head. The girl's mother was called in and initially could not believe what had happened but then went to the police.
The victims were interviewed and all told similar stories of abuse.
Martin Thomas, 63, was arrested and appeared at Exeter Crown Court, where he denied a series of sexual offences but was found guilty of the rape of three girls, and indecency offences against two others.
The court heard he lured five girls into his home by offering to teach them about wildlife in his garden pond. But once they were there the 63-year-old retired trawlerman then forced them to take part in sex acts with him.
A police inquiry found Thomas had been preying on girls aged six to 10 for almost a decade without any of his young victims summoning the courage to report what he had done.
Thomas lived in Brixham, South Devon and targeted girls living nearby.
He was jailed for 19 years with a six year extended licence by Judge Francis Gilbert, QC, at Exeter Crown Court.
He told him: "The level of depravity was exceptional and was your willingness to disregard the risk of detection. That adds to the dangerousness I attribute to you.
"The victims... were allowed to go to your house because you were trusted by their parents.
"When the opportunity arose you abused them. At the time they did not realise what was happening and they were unable to prevent you committing these offences.
"They know now what you did and the level of distress and pain they showed when reliving their experience was very apparent for all to see."
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