Brett Connell, 36, of Clare Way in Sevenoaks, was sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court this afternoon
A man has been jailed for nine years after sexually abusing his teenage stepdaughter who later killed herself by running in front of a train.
Brett Connell, of Clare Way in Sevenoaks, was sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court this afternoon.
Georgia Walsh was just 16 when she took her own life at Dunton Green station near Sevenoaks, Kent, in March last year.
A court heard that just four weeks earlier she had been interviewed by police about the abuse she had repeatedly suffered at the hands of 36-year-old Connell.
She left a suicide note in which she wrote she could no longer cope, and hoped her stepfather would ‘rot in Hell’ for what he had done.
During an emotionally-charged trial at Maidstone Crown Court in Kent, Georgia’s account of what happened was given from ‘beyond the grave’ when her video recorded interview was shown.
The teenager spoke of how South African-born Connell molested her while tucking her in bed at night when she was aged 13 or 14.
She told police it left her feeling ‘confused, lost and scared’, and she withdrew from friends at school. Georgia also said she believed she had to ‘stay silent’ about what was happening.
But the abuse finally came to light in February last year when she confided in her mother, Jennifer, telling her she could not let him back into their family home.
Mrs Connell later told the court when giving evidence for the prosecution that her daughter was sobbing and physically shaking as she revealed what Connell had done.
The former pub manager however denied the allegations, claiming they were ‘wicked lies’ made up after a row between himself and his stepdaughter about the family home being untidy.
He was convicted of five offences of sexual activity with a child by majority verdicts of 10 to 2 relating to Georgia.
Georgia Walsh was just 16 when she took her own life at Dunton Green station near Sevenoaks, Kent, in March last year
Connell also faced 11 other similar sexual offences unrelated to Georgia. He was convicted of eight of them and cleared of three.
Connell showed no emotion as the verdicts were announced.
He was sentenced at 2pm today and was told prison was inevitable.
Georgia killed herself on March 17 shortly after Connell had been released on police bail.
He was re-interviewed after her death and described himself as heartbroken by her allegations.
She told police he would usually give her a peck on the cheek to kiss her goodnight. But the abuse began when he told her to ‘kiss him properly’ and then put his tongue in her mouth.
Over several months he then progressed to touching her breasts both over and under her clothing. He also put his hand inside her pyjama bottoms and underwear to touch her private parts.
‘I knew that it was wrong and I was just scared and didn’t know what to do. That’s when I was really confused,’ she told officers.
‘I just didn’t know what to do and couldn’t tell anyone and just had to stay silent. That’s when I started withdrawing from everyone.
‘I started withdrawing from my friends. I was scared and wouldn’t talk to them. My teachers would say ‘There’s something strange about Georgia’ but I wouldn’t tell anyone. I just became withdrawn.’
The court heard the abuse stopped after Georgia told her mum she had seen someone taking a photo of her with a mobile phone while she was taking a shower.
She said she saw the device being held up to a clear glass window above the bathroom door for six seconds. She also wrote about it in a journal and later told police she recognised both Connell’s hand and the watch on his wrist.
Prosecutor Dominic Connolly told the jury that even though Georgia was dismissed by her mum as being ‘ridiculous’, it was enough to ‘spook’ Connell into thinking his stepdaughter might reveal his abuse of her and so he ended his perverted behaviour.
It was another two to three years before Georgia finally told her mum the full extent of what had happened and police were informed.
The court heard Georgia’s suicide note was found with her coat near the train tracks.
She wrote: ‘I can’t do this anymore. The stress from the current situation is too much to handle. 24/7 I feel guilty because of what happened.
‘Make sure that bastard rots in Hell for what he has done.
‘Mum, please call Dad (her natural father). Tell him everything but let him know how much I loved him.
‘I miss our walks at the park and I miss him. I love you Dad.’
Connell said he had only ever hugged and kissed Georgia on the cheek when saying goodnight to her ‘in the way a father would hug a daughter’.
He described Georgia as a shy and timid girl but said they shared the same sense of humour and a ‘very good, strong relationship’.
Giving evidence, Connell told the jury he never abused Georgia, and had no sexual interest in children. He added that when his wife confronted him, it was he who said the police should be called.
Before the trial got underway, the judge, Recorder Peter Guest, told the jury of nine women and three men that they should not ‘jump to the conclusion’ that Connell was responsible for Georgia’s death.
‘You must keep an open mind, listen to the evidence, speeches and summing up before reaching any conclusions,’ he said.
Brett Connell, pictured at Maidstone Crown Court, denied the allegations, claiming they were ‘wicked lies’ made up after a row between himself and his stepdaughter about the family home being untidy
In her account to police Georgia said: ‘He came to tuck me into bed and kissed me on the cheek.
‘I said I was going to bed and went to roll over and he said ‘No, kiss me properly’. He kissed me with his tongue and I tried to push him away.
‘He then just got up and said goodnight and went down to mum. He literally just put his tongue in my mouth.
‘I was confused, I was quite scared as well. I was, like, lost. I didn’t know that was sexual assault.’
Georgia also spoke of how Connell progressed to touching her breasts.
‘He would go to tuck me in and slide his hand up my shirt. I would try to push him away but he would put his hand on my breasts.
‘Sometimes he touched me on top (of clothing) but mostly it was under.’
Georgia said the sexual touching lasted up to three minutes before Connell would leave the room.
He later put his hand inside Georgia’s pyjama bottoms and underwear to touch her private parts.
‘I walked into my room. I heard him come behind me and all of a sudden he was behind me and put his hand in my knickers,’ claimed Georgia.
‘He touched me for about three or four seconds and then left and went downstairs.’
Asked by police how she reacted, the teenager replied: ‘I kind of stood there and froze. I didn’t know what had just happened.
‘I cried after. I stood there for a good 10 minutes thinking about what had happened and then I cried. I got scared.’
Detective Constable Michelle James of Kent Police who investigated the case said: ‘The consequences of Connell’s appalling abuse could not have been more devastating.
‘The tragic note left by his victim, before her death, detailed the unbearable stress and trauma he caused.
‘This was a young girl who had her whole life ahead of her.
‘Before she died, thankfully she had showed incredible courage to provide her testimony to Kent Police in a recorded video interview.
‘This has helped us ensure Connell has now been brought to justice and I only hope his sentence is able to provide some comfort to the victim’s family.’