Runcorn pensioner sexually abused schoolgirl, 12, after paying her to clean his flat

A pensioner from Runcorn told a 12-year-old girl he would pay her to clean his flat – but instead exploited the opportunity to sexually abuse her.

Taxi driver Robert Gwilliam’s victim now goes to sleep hiding under her bed after he subjected her to years of assaults. The paedophile even took photographs of her naked, giving her cash in return.

Liverpool Crown Court heard the youngster began visiting the 67-year-old’s then home in Widnes “on a regular basis, initially on the premises she would clean for him”. But Louise McCloskey, prosecuting, said Gwilliam “took advantage of the situation” – grooming her and sexually abusing her, reports the Liverpool Echo.

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Gwilliam, now of Whitchurch Way in Runcorn, assaulted her and forced her to perform sex acts on him, the court heard. He took pictures of her exposed breasts on his iPhone, and on one occasion told her to take her clothes off before placing pound coins on her naked body.

She would “tell him no, but he carried on anyway”, paying her up to £40 per visit. The schoolgirl eventually confided in her PE teacher about the “prolonged and sustained” abuse she had been subjected to.

Liverpool Crown Court.
(Image: Ian Cooper)

In a statement read out to the court on her behalf, she described how she was left “really scared” and now slept under the bed as it enables her to feel safe. She added: “I didn’t know what to do about it or who to talk to – I was petrified about what he would do to me and my family for telling the truth about what he did. I am terrified of bumping into him somewhere. In my nightmares, it’s happening all over again.”

Gwilliam has one previous conviction for a “dissimilar matter” in 1981. He attended court in a wheelchair and requires a stick to walk short distances having suffered a stroke in January, which also left him paralyzed in his right arm. Paul Wood, defending, described how his client owned his own glazing business and worked as a taxi driver for 40 years.

He added: “The impact of custody will be absolutely massive as far as this defendant is concerned. He is, in my submission, a man of positive good character. This is a good man who has done something which is quite terrible – his life has been turned upside down.”

Gwilliam admitted six counts of sexual assault, inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, two charges of attempting to engage in sexual activity with a child and taking indecent images. He was jailed for 12 years on Friday (October 14) and handed an additional year on licence.

Sentencing, Judge David Swinnerton said: “You lived your life as a hard-working man, living what appears to have been a good, law-abiding life up until the age of 64. Your older years are going to be spent in some disgrace, because you committed terrible offences against a child – repeatedly sexually abusing her over two years.

“She has been massively effected – scared, worried, anxious, having nightmares and difficulty sleeping. She has suffered severe psychological harm at your hands. I accept you are genuinely remorseful. Prison is likely to be a difficult experience for you. I have taken that into account. It has limited effect when you seriously damaged the life of a young child as you did.”

Gwilliam was also handed an indefinite sexual harm prevention order and a lifelong notification requirement. A restraining order banned him from contacting the girl until further notice, while he was told to pay a victim surcharge.

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