A YOUNG woman has spoken of her torment after her paedophile stepfather who subjected her to years of rape and sexual abuse was jailed for 18 years.
Michael Fairbairn, 42, was jailed at Leeds Crown Court last Thursday after he was found guilty by a jury of raping and sexually abusing his stepdaughter Gabrielle Downs for seven years at their home in the Five Towns.
Gabrielle, 20, – who has waived her anonymity to allow the Express to name Fairbairn – had to relive her ordeal in the witness box after he pleaded not guilty.
Fairbairn, of Waterfront, Knottingley, had previously spent four years on the run after being initially arrested in 2008, fleeing to the Spanish capital Madrid and then moving across Europe, before handing himself in at Pontefract police station in February.
Jailing Fairbairn, Judge Scott Wolstenholme told him that he had caused Gabrielle “appalling psychological harm” during his reign of terror, which began when she was just seven years old.
Gabrielle said: “I had to stand up and give evidence in court, and it was horrible being cross examined. It was terrifying being up there but I knew I had to do, what I had to do.
“I wasn’t confident this would result would always come, but I knew in the back of my mind I was right.”
Fairbairn would make Gabrielle watch pornographic films as he carried out the abuse which started after he married her mother in 1996.
Police seized his laptop which contained 280 images of sexual abuse with nine pictures at the worst level and 133 at level four.
Fairbairn raped Gabrielle on many occasions when she was aged between 12 and 14. He threatened her to keep quiet about the abuse and said her mother would “kill her” if she found out.
The attacks stopped when Gabrielle was 14 but when she was 15 Fairbairn set up a video camera in her bedroom to spy on her.
Gabrielle said she found the video camera, and when she confronted him, he said he had installed it to catch her smoking.
She said: “When he got up in court to give evidence it was shocking, it was laughable. He had obviously had to make things up.”
Fairbairn was arrested when Gabrielle finally found the strength to tell her mother about Fairbairn’s abuse after the couple had agreed to get a divorce.
Gabrielle said: “They were arguing quite frequently. He was always being horrible to me at this stage, I was only 16, but he was telling me to move out. My heart was racing and I told my mum what was going on. After I told her, I felt relief but I was still scared when he was released on bail.”
Despite his constant denials, Fairbairn was convicted of four offences of rape, five of indecent assault, two of indececy with a child, vouyerism and 11 counts of making indecent images of a child.
Fairbairn, a former lifeguard at Lightwaves Leisure Centre in Wakefield, later confessed everything to a probation officer.
Gabrielle said: “After court I was a bit upset because I realised he could be out when I’m 30 but they told me that he got the top end of what he could get.
“I don’t think any amount of time would be long enough and I don’t think it’s right that people like him get treatment like it’s an actual illness, I don’t think there’s cure for this.”
Judge Wolstenholme told Fairburn: “She has been grossly traumatised by what you have done to her. It involved that most gross abuse of trust by a stepfather.
“It was your job to cherish and protect her. Instead, over the years you abused her for your own sexual gratification and caused her appalling pschological harm.
“It is clear from these offences that you do have an entrenched interest in extreme forms of child abuse.
“There is a risk, when released from prison that unless you address your behaviour you will commit further offences if you inveigle your way into a home life with a daughter of a young age.”