A predatory paedophile who spent 40 years raping and sexually molesting girls as young as five across Britain has been jailed for 18 years.
Geoffrey Tift was described as ”nothing short of evil” by the judge who sentenced him for carrying out the vile crimes.
Tift, now 62, subjected his four victims, aged between five and 15, to a catalogue of abuse including rape and sexual assault between 1970 and 2009.
The month-long trial at Bristol Crown Court heard how he travelled the country befriending families before subjecting their children to a catalogue of abuse.
A number of complaints were made to police, but charges were never brought due to a lack of evidence or the complaint being withdrawn.
He was finally snared in April last year when a friend of his latest victim told the NSPCC and alerted cops, who re-investigated Tift’s past.
They discovered the string of complaints made against him and re-interviewed his victims.
Wheelchair-bound Tift, from Lawrence Weston, Bristol, was initially charged with 39 counts, which was later reduced to 28.
He denied nine rapes, ten indecent assaults, four charges of sexual activity with a child and five charges of indecency with a child.
The jury were directed to return not guilty verdicts on one rape charge and two charges of indecency with a child, but Tift was convicted of all 25 remaining charges.
His wife Lorna, 48 was convicted of a single non-sexual offence against a child and her son from a previous marriage, Karl Bailey, 26, was cleared of four charges of sexual activity with a child.
Jailing Tift for 18 years on Monday, Judge Neil Ford QC said: ”Your acts, Geoffrey Tift, were nothing short of evil and were perpetrated against vulnerable children who had no real means of defending themselves.”
The trial heard Tift systematically abused youngsters as he travelled around the country, starting off in Kent before moving to North Wales, Somerset, Devon and finally Bristol.
His abuse began in 1970 when he befriended a family in Kent and forced their daughter, then aged six, to touch him improperly on several occasions.
The abuse continued until the girl was 14 and included raping her in an apple orchard.
Tift indecently assaulted his second victim, also in Kent, when she was aged five and continued for seven years until the girl was 12.
He sexually assaulted a girl under 13 on several occasions in the 1990s.
Complaints had been made to Thames Valley Police on a number of occasions in relation to the assaults but no further action was ever taken.
But he was finally captured last year – nearly 40 years after his first attack – when a friend of one of his victims phoned the NSPCC to say she had been abused.
It later emerged that a previous complaint had been made to police when a teacher found a crumpled piece of paper written by the victim in a waste bin at a Bristol school.
Tift was arrested in April last year and denied any wrong doing, claiming all the girls were lying.
He claimed his time was taken up by a number of jobs including boat yard worker, taxi driver, house renovator, HGV driver and AA man.
Christopher Quinlan, prosecuting, said: ”Over a good part of the last few decades Geoffrey Tift has prayed on youngsters, sexually abusing them in a number of counties in England and North Wales.
”His abuse was in different forms: compelling them to touch him intimately; touching them intimately and raping them.
”He was reported before, but not until now has he been prosecuted.”
After the case Tift’s first victim, who cannot be identified, said: ”I was five years old and I didn’t understand what was going on. It was only when I told my mum I understood.
”As a mum myself to a young daughter I don’t know how I would have coped to be told that.
”My mum feels guilty because she reported him to social services in Kent 15 years ago, nothing was done, and he abused again.”
Her mother, 42, said: ”At the time my husband had just left me and I was feeling really vulnerable.
”I felt as if I hadn’t protected my daughter enough and it made me feel really guilty. I wholeheartedly believed my daughter; it never crossed my mind she was lying.
”I think 18 years is great but it’s a shame it’s not more. I’ve waited 15 years for him to get 18 years.”
Tift claimed that his time was taken up by a number of jobs from boat yard worker, taxi driver and house renovator to HGV driver and AA man and denied touching the youngsters.
In late 2007, he was diagnosed with a tumour in his spine and is now in remission after undergoing radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
The judge disqualified Tift from working with children for life and told him to register as a sex offender for life.
Detective Sergeant Andy Howe from the Avon and Somerset police child abuse investigation team said: ”Geoffrey Tift targeted vulnerable females and committed very serious offences.
”I hope the verdict passed today offers those victims some measure of comfort, knowing that he has been brought to justice for the terrible acts he committed against them.”
Lorna Tift is due to be sentenced at a later date.