A DEVON man has been found guilty of abusing six under-age girls in a trial held in his absence at Exeter Crown Court.
Jurors yesterday unanimously found that Michael Collingwood, now 69, of Tedburn St Mary, near Exeter, committed 23 sex offences, including raping one girl.
Judge Paul Darlow instructed the jury to formally enter not guilty pleas to the other six sex offence allegations.
Jurors heard the trial in Collingwood’s absence after being told he suffers from severe dementia.
The jury forewoman, giving her verdicts, was required to say she found Collingwood “did the act charged” rather than being “guilty”, due to him not standing trial.
They were told, after the verdict, that he is currently in hospital under a Mental Health Act order, and his future will be decided at a further hearing.
He repeatedly abused six under-age girls in the 1980s and 1990s.
Investigating officer Detective Constable Wendy Fuller said after the verdict: “I want to pay credit to the immense bravery shown by the victims in coming to court and reliving the most traumatic experience of their childhood and beyond.
“I sincerely hope the result at court today will help them to somehow repair the considerable damage this depraved individual has caused.”
The court heard police investigated allegations involving four of the girls, in the 1990s, but the case was not brought to court.
A fresh investigation was launched last year after allegations were brought to light involving two other girls.
Collingwood called the rape victim a “good liar”, during that investigation.
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