Hampshire company director who sexually abused seven girls is behind bars after he was confronted by one of his devastated victims ten years after his crimes.
Shamed Neil Townsend only handed himself into police when he feared his sordid secret would be revealed. The 63-year-old confessed he crept into children’s bedrooms to touch them while they slept.
He even gave police the names of his seven victims – one who later tried to kill herself after she struggled to cope with the abuse. One of the girls – aged 13 – had been asleep when he indecently assaulted her and only found out she had been abused when police came to take her statement.
Sheffield-born Townsend was the boss of Hythe -based team building and life coaching business Next Step. An active member of Waterside Tennis club he was the singer in Hythe band 2 Generations and 2nd Generation in the 90s, Southampton Crown Court was packed with his victims and their families to hear a judge jail Townsend for five years.
The court heard Townsend had a predatory sexual interest in children. The victims wept as they relived their suffering and the effect it has had on their lives. Prosecutor Siobhan Linsley said one girl began self-harming, took an overdose and even tried to hang herself. Another who suffered repeated abuse over what the judge described a “significant period of time” developed post traumatic stress disorder and a condition where she pulled out her eyelashes and eyebrows from the stress.
In a statement read to the court she said: “I lost a piece of me every time it happened.” In one of the counts he lured a girl onto his lap to write her Christmas list and indecently assaulted her. In another, he touched a 19-year-old’s thigh under the covers but he fled when she awoke and confronted him.
In mitigation Rebecca Vanstone said Townsend felt “deep set remorse and regret for what he has done”. Townsend, of Onslow Road, Southampton, pleaded guilty to five counts of indecent assault and two further counts at a previous hearing. Judge Gary Burrell told him: “he fact is you do have a sexual interest in children and it was a predatory interest. You took advantage of these children to satisfy your own sexual appetite.” The judge added that the case was aggravated by the number of victims, his repeated abuse and the effect he has had on his victims’ lives. He added: “They now have to live with that for the rest of their lives.”
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