A woman who was sexually assaulted when she was just a young girl has said she hopes her words haunt her childhood abuser as he begins a prison sentence.
Gordon Bedlington will spend the next seven and a half years behind bars after admitting a string of sickening offences against two young girls during the 1970s and 1980s.
The 65-year-old, who was a firefighter for 27 years, took one of the victims to Penshaw Monument in Houghton-le-Spring, to abuse her.
Prosecutor Richard Bennett told Newcastle Crown Court how Bedlington touched the girls on a number of occasions, exposed himself to them and forced one of them to touch him.
As part of his prosecution opening, Mr Bennett told how one of the victims wanted to read out an impact statement to tell her abuser what he had put her through.
In her statement, which was pre-recorded and played over video to the court, the woman said: "Abuse is not a normal part of life and it should have never happened to me.
"I want to tell that man and his wife how I have been affected, and I hope my words haunt him for the rest of his life.
"I was still singing nursery rhymes and couldn't tell the time when that man did what he did to me.
“I want to be clear to the court that I wanted to leave this world as a direct result of what that person did to me as a little girl.
"This has been my sentence."
Mr Bennett explained that, if the offences were committed today, the starting point for sentence would be that of 14 years - but sentencing guidelines for historic abuse are lower.
Bedlington, who lived in Malta but was given the address of The Folds, Chilton Moor, Houghton-le-Spring, admitted five counts of indecent assault and one of indecency with a child.
Susan Hirst, defending, said that her client fell from a ladder in 1999 and has had problems remembering instances before that date - including the offences and his wedding ceremony in 1976.
She added: "While it is entirely his fault that he is in this position, he knows that it has further ramifications, not just for the victims but for the people he loves.
"He is genuinely sorry for the harm he has caused and deeply regrets that.
"He worked for the fire service. He spent time saving lives. He accepts responsibility for these offences and that was indicated by the virtue of the pleas he had entered."
Jailing him for seven and a half years, Judge Penny Moreland said: "You are 65 years old and you are of previous good character.
"You pleaded guilty to a series of sexual offences when you were a man in your 20s and 30s.
"You have caused irreparable damage to that victim."
Bedlington must also sign the sex offenders’ register for life and was made the subject of an indefinite Sexual Harm Prevention Order.