July 2008

Child abuser, 66, jailed for string of sex offences against girl

A 66-YEAR-OLD man has been sentenced to 15 years in prison after admitting a number of sexual offences against a girl.

John Astbury, of Shelley Drive, Cheadle, had originally denied three charges of raping a child, four charges of serious sexual offences and one charge of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.

But the former bus driver, pictured, changed his pleas to guilty during a trial at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court last month.

The court heard his victim had been left traumatised by the abuse at his hands.

The offences came to light when she watched a TV soap featuring a child abuse plot and told her mum: “That’s happened to me.”

Former bus driver Astbury was arrested at his home address on December 2 last year.

One of the officers who worked on the case was Detective Constable Jim Ward, from the Staffordshire child protection unit.

He said: “Astbury originally denied rape and other sex offences and continued to deny it right up to the court case.

“The girl was in a really bad state after what she had experienced and even more traumatised at having to give evidence in court.

“The offences were a catalogue of horrifying behaviour by this man to satisfy his sexual gratification.

“I understand there was something on EastEnders on the night of the disclosure, which involved a script line, which made her feel uncomfortable and led to her telling her mother.

“She is making good progress and hopefully this sentence will give her some comfort and help her to move on with her life.

“We have spent a lot of time on the case and we are satisfied with the result. It reflects the true gravity of the offences committed.”

Astbury, originally from Blythe Bridge, also worked as a caretaker on the Tean Road recreation ground in Cheadle about 10 years ago.

He was sacked by Cheadle Town Council after a complaint from a mother about “inappropriate” behaviour with her daughter.

Former town clerk Jean Smith said Astbury would have been CRB checked, but nothing came to light.

Judge Mark Eades, sentencing at Stafford Crown Court, said: “These were shocking and dreadful offences.

“During the trial you had a look of horror on your face as the prosecution opened their case and I almost had to intervene, because I thought you were trying to interfere with the jury.

“That was in stark contrast to your reaction during cross examination when you partially came to your senses.”

Astbury was also placed on the sex offenders’ register for life.