July 2011

18 years behind bars for rapist who abused children

AN ‘EVIL’ child rapist who abused 13 young children over two decades has been jailed for 18 years at Plymouth Crown Court.

City labourer Robert Rohleder stood impassively with his hands clasped behind his back as the jury of seven men and five women delivered 52 guilty and eight not guilty verdicts on 60 sex assault charges.

Over the course of the two-week trial, they had heard harrowing accounts of abuse from more than a dozen witnesses, some of whom broke down while giving evidence.

The youngsters, most of them aged five to 14 at the time, were abused by Rohleder whenever he was left alone with them.

They were made to play sick sex games with him and also abuse each other while he watched or took part.

Passing sentence, Judge Francis Gilbert QC told Rohleder: “The evidence this jury has heard overwhelmingly demonstrates that you are an evil man who sexually abused 13 children over a period of 20 years.

“You repeatedly indecently assaulted one girl between the ages of nine and 13 and attempted to rape her when she was 13. A boy described in graphic and extremely distressed terms how you assaulted him.

“You kept all the children quiet with threats of violence and with actual violence.

“In view of the number of children you sexually abused, including the rape of two, the indecent assault of a third which would today be classed as rape and the attempted rape of a fourth, I am satisfied that there is a significant risk of future offences by you.”

Prosecutor David Evans also told the jury of Rohleder’s violent past offences, including pushing a man through a plate-glass window, head-butting another and stabbing a man in Union Street, for which he was jailed for three years.

Judge Gilbert jailed Rohleder, of Mount Gould Road, for a total of 18 years, less 275 days spent on remand, and ordered him to remain on the Sex Offenders’ Register for life.

As Rohleder was led away in handcuffs to begin his sentence, Judge Gilbert told the jury: “The case was overwhelmingly proved and I entirely agree with you.”

Speaking after sentencing, lead investigator Det Con Donna Jordan said: “I would describe Rohleder as a sexual predator, a monster really. In the box he looked benign, but they are sometimes the most dangerous. He seized every opportunity he had to abuse young girls and a boy.”

Of the many victims, she commended them for their bravery in giving evidence, often fighting back or giving in to tears.

She said: “Getting up in the witness box is hard enough, but to speak about the abuse they suffered, to a jury, to face questioning, it is beyond words. They are very brave to talk about something so hugely personal and horrible.

“They were all given the option of speaking via video link but they all felt it was important the jury saw them as people, face to face.

“The victims have mostly got on with their lives, surprisingly so in some cases. They said they would not let him ruin their lives. The boy was the most affected, the most damaged and I understand he’s having counselling. I hope he can move on because he’s a lovely lad. Hopefully, this sentence – 18 years for being raped by Rohleder – and being told he was believed by a jury will help him. It has validated everything he’s ever said.

“I think the lesson from this case is to listen to children. I’ve worked this case for two years and the thing that came out again and again, especially the questions in court was ‘why didn’t you tell an adult?’ and every time the answer was the same ‘I didn’t think anyone would believe me’.

“Rohleder relied on that, above the threats and the bribes, even to the point that when some children told adults years ago, they were not believed and Rohleder was able to say to them ‘See, I told you no-one would believe you’.”

Det Con Jordan praised the “enormous support’ of Debbie Gibbons from Twelves Company, who worked alongside the victims.

She said: “She was always available to them, to talk and support them.

“I would like to get across to victims that no matter how long ago the abuse happened, we will listen and will deal with cases like this robustly. If you feel you can’t speak to us, then please speak to Twelve’s Company as a fallback.”

To contact Twelves Company, call 01752 220400 or 08458 121212.