Police have praised the courage of a rape victim for coming forward almost 30 years after she was abused, resulting in a Norwich man being jailed for 17 years.

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Stephen Hawkes, 62, of Bowers Avenue, Mile Cross, was handed the jail sentence at Norwich Crown Court yesterday after being found guilty by a jury following a three-day trial.

Hawkes, who was also placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register indefinitely, was jailed for three counts of rape and seven counts of indecent assault against three females under the age of 16 - all of which took place in Norwich in the 1980s.

Detective Inspector Ross McDermott, of Norfolk’s Specialist Rape Investigation Unit, said: “Despite these offences being disclosed some 30 years after the event, a meticulous investigation has enabled this offender to be brought to justice.

“Hopefully the verdict will give other victims of previously undisclosed similar crimes, the confidence to come forward and report matters to us.

“They can be safe in the knowledge that we will fight relentlessly for the truth and for justice not just for the victim, but also for the safety and protection of the wider public.”

The matters only recently came to light when one of the women came forward after she spoke to a social worker about her childhood.

Clare Matthews, prosecuting, said it was after the woman told a social worker about the abuse she suffered as a child that she then decided to tell police about the allegations and then.

The two other women then also came forward to make their complaints.

The court heard that the woman had not said anything about the abuse but told a school friend at the time he had offered her £20 for sex.

In defence Hawkes denied that he had sexually assaulted any of the three girls and could not understand why they would make up such allegations.

He told the jury: “I wish I knew why they made up the lies.”

Lori Tucker, for Hawkes, questioned the accuracy of the victims’ recollections from almost 30 years ago and urged jurors to ensure they were “certain” before making their decision.

- If you need to speak to police, call the non-emergency 101 number or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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