Brighton schoolgirl sobs as she tells jury how a trusted family friend abused her

A 14-year-old schoolgirl from Brighton sobbed as she told a jury how she was sexually abused by a trusted family friend.

The girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was approaching her eighth birthday when the abuse started, the jury was told at Lewes Crown Court.

She gave evidence from behind a screen, describing how William Burrell-Ashbee, 27, of Howard Place, Brighton, tried to rape her.

More than once the distressed girl was asked to speak up as she accused the defendant, known as Billy Ashbee – or Big Billy, of pressing himself on her and against her.

Burrell-Ashbee faces five charges – two counts of attempted rape, one of sexual assault, one of assault and one count of inciting a child to sexual behaviour.

He denies all the charges and the jury learnt that he first alerted police to the allegations against him himself but the police took no steps to investigate the matter.

He said that he did so because he feared that he would be unable to see his own two children if the claims were reported and believed.

At Lewes Crown Court yesterday, shortly after the girl’s evidence, her parents took the stand.

One after the other they spoke about their shock at hearing about what happened, mostly between dates in February 2012 and February 2014, by which time the girl had turned 11.

Their shock and the suffering of their daughter were so extreme, they said, that the child felt unable to press charges until 2015.

The child’s mother told the jury how she learnt about what had happened to her: “We were all crying. She told me ‘he touched me’ or words to that effect and then we were all crying.”

She said of the accused: “I classed him like a son.”

The girl’s father, speaking after his wife, said: “I was getting fed (information) piecemeal by my wife because she could see how angry and distraught it was making me.”

He said he could see his daughter was also “distraught” and that he had not pressed her to approach the police when she first made the allegations.

He said: “My daughter came before everything and she wasn’t ready. We told her when she’s ready she lets me or mum know.”

The child’s father also believed that his own fears and his desire to protect his daughter from further trauma may have played a part in her delaying reporting the abuse.

He said: “I thought they get grilled by the police then they get medical stuff happen to them so I told my daughter.

“I think I scared (her) out of her wits thinking that, after what she’s gone through, it’s going to have to be relayed to people she doesn’t know.

“Obviously I looked for the worst scenario. It’s just my nature. (My daughter) was wary of what to tell strangers.

“We said when she’s ready she lets me or her mum know.”

The trial continues.

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