A man subjected three young victims to years of repeated sexual abuse, making them believe his behaviour was normal to continue his crimes, a court has heard.

Matthew Aldridge, aged 56, from Knighton in Powys has been found guilty of 27 sexual offences, including rape and attempted rape, against three girls who he targeted through their childhood.

He has been jailed for life, to serve a minimum sentence of 24 years.

Also appearing in court was Sara Hall, aged 46, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for offences of perverting the course of justice and child cruelty for allowing the offences to happen, and for coercing one of the victims to change her evidence against him.

The pair were the subject of an extensive investigation by Dyfed-Powys Police, with evidence presented to Mold Crown Court during a three-week trial.

The jury heard how Aldridge groomed his victims, making them believe his behaviour was normal in order to continue his sexual gratification over 20 years.

One of Aldridge’s victims reported his offending in 2016, however Hall coerced her into changing the evidence she gave to police. A further allegation in 2019 resulted in the true extent of Aldridge’s actions coming to light.

Led by Dyfed-Powys Police’s Criminal Investigation Department, evidence was gathered from victim interviews and statements, disclosures made to child services and counsellors, and examination of digital devices. This work culminated in multiple charges being brought against Aldridge, several of which were multiple occasions of each:

  • Rape of a child under 13yrs (two charges)
  • Attempt rape of a child under 13yrs
  • Sexual assault upon a child under 13yrs by penetration (11 charges)
  • Sexual assault of a child under 13yrs (five charges)
  • Sexual assault of a child 13-15yrs
  • Causing a child to engage in sexual activity (four charges)
  • Indecent assault upon a child
  • Indecency with a child
  • Engaging in sexual activity with a child

For her part in allowing the crimes to happen, Hall was charged with perverting the course of justice, child cruelty in failing to safeguard a child, and allowing sexual abuse to occur despite having full knowledge of the risk of sexual harm to children that Aldridge posed.

The pair were found guilty of these offences by a jury, and were sentenced on Thursday, November 9.

In his sentencing speeches, His Honour Judge Nic Parry described Aldridge’s behaviour as “a systematic and vile campaign of rape and like offences”, and that there was “no limit to the level of depravity in his sexual offending in order to gain sexual gratification”.

He described Hall’s actions as a “gross betrayal of trust”, and condemned her “victim blaming attitude”.

The resulting trauma to the victims was said to have had a prolonged and a far-reaching effect.

Speaking for Dyfed-Powys Police, officer in case Detective Constable Liz Evans said: “I would like to commend the strength and determination of the three victims in this case, and thank them for the support and cooperation they have shown our officers.

“As a result of the sustained length of time over which this appalling offending happened, and the amount of evidence to be considered, this was a lengthy and intense investigation involving a number of police teams. All three victims showed immense bravery throughout the course of our enquiries, which we appreciate has not been easy for them.

“The offenders have shown neither remorse for their despicable actions, nor any empathy towards the victims, adding to the distress and trauma they have already inflicted on these young women. We hope today’s outcome will go some way to reassuring that their bravery in speaking out was not in vain.

“It is encouraging to see that Operation Soteria – a national project which aims to develop new ways of investigating and prosecuting offenders for rape offences – is resulting in increased positive outcomes and convictions. This must be reassuring for victims, and I hope it will continue to improve confidence in reporting rape and sexual offences.”

  • For details of support services and how to report a sexual offence, including non-recent incidents, visit https://bit.ly/reportsexualoffences
  • If you have been a victim of a crime, report it to Dyfed-Powys Police, either online at: https://bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.police.uk,  or by calling 101.
  • If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.
  • Alternatively, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555111, or visiting www.crimestoppers-uk.org