Man jailed for 16 years after raping eight-year-old schoolgirl

NEWS from Nottingham Crown Court.
NEWS from Nottingham Crown Court.

A man from Bulwell has been jailed for 16 years after raping a terrified Sutton schoolgirl when she was as young as eight.

Mark Whitehead, 29, of Hucknall Lane, also admitted a string of other sex offences against the girl over a two-year period, Nottingham Crown Court heard.

The girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was still suffering nightmares about him, while her mother had twice tried to commit suicide, it was said.

Judge Stuart Rafferty told Whitehead: “You should be ashamed, and I hope you are.

“It is difficult to describe what you perpetrated against this wholly innocent child. You exploited her in a way no child of any age should be.

“It is perfectly apparent that you sought sexual gratification in a wholly inappropriate way, and used her. It was systematic and repeated. She may never fully recover.”

David Outterside, prosecuting, told the court that the abuse started when the girl was aged only seven. It came to light when she complained to her mum, and the police were called in.

In a video interview, the girl told officers: “He has been all over me. I tried to stop him, but he kept carrying on. I couldn’t move him away because he was too strong.”

The girl also told how the man hurt her. Video footage of her naked was even found by her mum on her mobile phone. It had been filmed by the man and sent to the girl.

Mr Outterside read statements to the court from the mum and her daughter.

“The emotional impact has been devastating,” said the mum. “I have attempted suicide twice and been taken into hospital.

“I have been suffering from depression, and this has tipped me over the edge. I have been unable to cope.

“We have had to move house and schools. It has had massive consequences. The pressure on the whole family has been huge.

“I wanted my daughter to grow up in her teenage years without worries. He has ruined so much.”

The girl’s statement read: “I would like the judge to know how I feel. I find it difficult to get to sleep at night. All I can think about is him. I have had to go to the doctor’s, and sometimes I have nightmares about him.

“Before he was taken to prison (on remand), I was scared he would come and take me.

“My teacher says I am the bravest girl she knows. I haven’t recovered and I haven’t forgotten, but I feel I am coping better.”

The court heard that Whitehead originally pleaded not guilty. But positive results of sperm-stain tests added up to “overwhelming evidence” that persuaded him to change his plea just before a trial was due to take place.

The judge branded his initial denial as “an act of cowardice”, adding: “You knew what you had done and yet you chose to plead not guilty to prolong the agony.

“Thank goodness the girl has been spared the awful ordeal of appearing in court in front of strangers in public. Had this gone to a trial, you would have got 20 years.”

In all, Whitehead admitted nine charges of rape, sexual assault or sexual activity. Members of the girl’s family watched in the court’s public gallery as he was taken away, sobbing.

As well as the jail sentence, he was placed on the sex offenders’ register and made the subject of a sexual harm prevention order, both for the rest of his life.

Whitehead pleaded not guilty to two other charges of rape and two charges of intimidating a witness. The judge ordered these to lie on the file and not to be proceeded with.

Whitehead also pleaded guilty to a charge of producing cannabis after 12 plants were found in the loft at his home. For this, he was jailed for 12 months, to run alongside the 16-year sentence.