Two brave women who were abused as girls have been praised for helping bring their rapist to justice.

William Shepherd is beginning a 20-year prison sentence after a jury found him guilty of two counts of rape, 11 counts of indecent assault and nine counts of indecency with a child.

During the six-day trial last month, jurors heard how Shepherd committed the sustained acts on the girls for his “perverted pleasure.”

The jury came to a unanimous guilty verdict for the 59-year-old on September 30 and Judge Ray Singh adjourned sentence to allow the victims to submit impact statements.

The court heard of the trauma the women had been through as a result of Shepherd’s offending and both have had to have counselling.

Shepherd, of Hareson Road, Newton Aycliffe, was sentenced yesterday and must serve at least two-thirds of his sentence before he is eligible for release.

He was also made subject of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order and sex offender notification, both indefinitely.

PC Simon Spellman, who led the investigation, praised both women for coming forward. He said: “This has been an absolutely traumatic time for both victims who have shown incredible bravery by coming forward and determination to see the case through.

“This has been a lengthy investigation but hopefully Shepherd’s sentence has bought some closure to the victims who can now start to rebuild their lives.

“We would always encourage anyone who thinks they have been a victim of abuse to come forward and seek our help.”

If you believe you have been a victim of any offence, call 101 or 999 in an emergency.