Seven-year-old girl's diary snares South Yorkshire rapist
A diary detailing theÂ abuse a seven-year-old rape victim suffered helped snare a South Yorkshire paedophile.
Dale Gavin Smith, aged 35, of Vernon Street, Wombwell, Barnsley, repeatedly abused his victim over a nine-month period when she was seven years old.
His victim wrote about the abuse in a diary she kept at the time but never reported her attacker.
Smith's offending, described by South Yorkshire Police as 'horrific', was discovered when his victim's mum found the diary and its dark secrets over 10 years later - in January 2011.
It was handed in to South Yorkshire Police as evidence but Smith was never charged.
The diary was later destroyed but police photocopies were kept and the case was re-opened a number of years later when another woman came forward to report abuse.
Smith, a tattoo artist, denied abusing the seven-year-old, who is now in her 20s, but was found guilty of three counts of rape, two counts of indecent assault and four counts of indecency with a child after a trial.
He was jailed for 15 years and placed on the Sex Offenders Register.
A relative of the victim said she was pleased Smith was behind bars but disappointed it had taken nearly six years.
"I am pleased that he is finally behind bars where he belongs, thanks to the current investigation team and detective Liz Portman, who took on the case, but disappointed that it has taken nearly six years to get to this stage," she said.
"I'm also disappointed that the original diary disappeared as it was a crucial part of the evidence."
She said Smith's victim had been left feeling 'numb' after being robbed of her childhood.
"At the time she thought what was happening to her was normal and never told anyone but wrote about it in her diary," the relative added.
"Her mum found it when she was tidying her daughter's room one day, and couldn't believe her eyes - every parent wants to protect their children and she finds it really difficult knowing she hadn't realised what was happening.
"Her daughter is strong and building a life for herself but struggles to feel things, it's almost like she has a sense of numbness.
"As a family we just want any other children who may have suffered at Smith's hands to come forward."
A South Yorkshire Police spokeswoman said: "South Yorkshire Police can confirm that a diary was retrieved as part of the investigation when the victim came forward. The case was not taken to the Crown Prosecution Service and did not reach court.
"The diary was destroyed but the relevant entry was photocopied and this formulated part of the evidence used as part of this prosecution."