A paedophile who destroyed the childhoods of three young girls and threatened them into silence was brought to justice decades later.

Twisted Robert Nickson, 55, was today jailed for 12 years with an additional year of supervision, after a jury convicted him of 21 counts of indecent assault against girls as young as five.

Nickson told his victims he would hurt them if they ever told anyone about the abuse, and that their parents would be forced to leave home.

But the now adult women broke their silence and reported Nickson in 2014, after decades of living with severe psychological trauma.

Robert Dudley, prosecuting, told a jury at Liverpool Crown Court that the first victim remembered the abuse starting with Nickson asking to 鈥渟how me your knickers鈥?for a 鈥済ame鈥?when she was around five.

He said this led to him touching her and forcing her to touch him, as she tried in vain to push him away.

Mr Dudley said: 鈥淭he defendant whispered to her that it was their secret and she shouldn鈥檛 tell anyone, warning her that if she did tell anyone that her dad would have to go away.?/p>

The court heard similar incidents continued and then progressed to rape.

A victim personal statement from the woman, read to the court, said the abuse she suffered as 鈥渁n innocent child鈥?caused physical side-effects into adulthood ?including bed wetting.

The defendant would hold her down no matter how much she wriggled, and he would continue to (abuse her)

She said: 鈥淢y anxiety levels are 30,000 feet high, and I鈥檓 stuck there wondering how to come down.?/p>

The court heard the second girl was also bullied into silence with threats relating to her parents.

Mr Dudley said Nickson forced her to sit on his knee and abused her on numerous occasions.

He told the jury: 鈥淭he defendant would hold her down no matter how much she wriggled, and he would continue to (abuse her). She told him that she was going to tell her father what he was doing, but the defendant said that if she did so her dad would go away.?/p>

The second victim said she also experienced problems with bed wetting into adulthood.

Her victim impact statement said: 鈥淔ear of the dark still continues and will always be with me. Robert Nickson had taken my childhood away, and I will never get this back.?/p>

The third victim told police Nickson鈥檚 abuse left her 鈥減etrified鈥?and in pain.

She later told police: 鈥淭here鈥檚 no peace of mind for me, I鈥檓 still trapped with no escape.?/p>

All three women said the effects of the abuse had tainted their relationships with their partners and children.

David Watson, defending, said his client was young himself at the time of the offences and had no previous convictions.

The court also heard Nickson had been acquitted of 11 further counts of indecent assault against the same victims in an initial trial, which ended in a hung jury on the remaining 21 counts.

However he was re-tried and convicted of all the remaining charges last week.

Judge Robert Trevor-Jones said the law restricted his powers to the maximum sentences available at the time the offences were committed.

He said: 鈥淚 have heard victim personal statements which explain in sometimes graphic ways how each of them have been severely traumatised by the experiences you inflicted upon them.

鈥淭he court has heard the emotional, psychological and indeed sometimes physical repercussions. It has been of life-changing effect, in each case their lives were blighted by this abuse.?/p>

Nickson, now of Humphreys Hey, Waterloo, was ordered to sign the sex offenders鈥?register for life.