A Woodplumpton woman who was abused by her sister’s husband from the age of 12 has slammed people who organised a hotpot supper to support his release.
Kirsty Clark, who was groomed by her brother-in-law Robert Hayes-Danson, 47, who also lived in Woodplumpton until the offences came to light, has waived her right to anonymity to expose the “campaign of hatred” she says her family has been subjected to since his conviction.
It took her more than two decades to gain the courage to report her attacker, fearing nobody would believe her because the married father-of-three, who was in his 20s at the time, was seen as a pillar of the community.
But he was jailed for 10 years in October after a jury found him guilty of nine indecent assaults and two counts of sexual activity with a child, following a five-week trial at Preston Crown Court.
The mum-of-two and her family, who still live in Woodplumpton, have been subjected to online abuse and anonymous letters.
Kirsty, now 34, waived her right of anonymity, after shocked residents passed flyers to our sister paper the Lancashire Evening Post showing supporters of the convicted sex offender had organised a fundraising hotpot supper and 23-mile vehicle rally near her home.
Kirsty described how people she considered friends had shunned her in the playground, while others had posted: “Rot in hell” and “Scum of the village” on internet sites.
On the day Hayes-Danson was sentenced, Judge Jacqueline Beech condemned a number of his supporters who had written “utterly inappropriate” letters to both the victim and the court about the case.
In tears, Kirsty said: “I didn’t come forward for a long time because I just knew no-one would believe me.
“It took the birth of my daughter and watching a TV storyline about grooming to make me realise that what he did was wrong. I had tried to cope with it.
“I remember him holding my baby girl and feeling like I had been hit with a sledgehammer. I wanted her away from him.
“People who I thought were my friends don’t believe me – people with their own children.
Kirsty confided in her sister, Nicola, and husband Darren in 2012. Nicola, a mum-of-two said: “I watched her falling apart. Some days she was so depressed she physically couldn’t get up.”
Kirsty added: “None of the people supporting him see this side of it, see what we are going through, my children asking why I’m crying. People must think I woke up one morning and decided to make up a story about my sister’s husband.
“It’s unbelievable that people are rallying around organising a hotpot supper to support a paedophile’s release. It just shows how people can be manipulated.”
Her mother, in her 60s, has had hate mail posted through her door. Kirsty added that she was distressed at abusive comments on Facebook.
A copy of a poster advertising the vehicle rally has been sent to local businesses, but does not say what it is in aid of. A reporter rang the number provided to enquire about the event, and was told it was in aid of an “appeal”, but the man who answered refused to divulge further information, adding: “All will be revealed on the day”.
When the reporter later spoke to Hayes-Danson’s mother, Barbara, she said: “A local man called David Martin has organised it and we are supporting it.
“The money will go towards an appeal fund for Mr Hayes-Danson. I am his mother and proud of it.”
When asked why enquirers were not being told what the event was funding until the day, she replied: “We aren’t telling everyone who rings what it is about unless they give their name and address. The people that are attending know what it’s for.”
David Martin, the organiser of the Fylde Vintage and Farm Show, said he was “just allowing them to use the showground” and that Hayes-Danson’s family had organised it. However, when pressed for further details, he put the phone down.
DS Steve Hooper, the investigating officer in the case, said: “It is disappointing that, despite 11 people finding this man guilty after a five-week trial, people still disbelieve the victim.