A pensioner has denied groping a 14-year-old girl during a game of hide and seek while on a camping trip more than 30 years ago.

Robin Wale, aged 70, allegedly touched the girl’s breasts during the game in woodland near Steps Bridge and went on to grope the same girl again at a friend’s house the next year.

The girl, now in her 40s, remained silent about the alleged abuse for 30 years but eventually went to the police because she was still distressed by the memories, Exeter Crown Court was told.

Wale, of Silver Way, Shobrooke, near Crediton, denies three counts of indecently assaulting the girl in 1982 and 1983, when she was aged 14 and 15.

He says nothing happened on any of the three occasions.

David Bowen, prosecuting, said the first assault took place when the girl was camping with a schoolfriend at Steps Bridge in the Teign Valley and Wale was part of the same group.

He went out with the two girls into the woods and suggested a game of hide and seek. He sent the other girl to hide and then lifted the complainant’s top and touched her breasts.

On another occasion the next summer he was staying at the same house as the two girls. He touched her chest over her T-shirt while on a walking trip and went on to put his hand inside her pants in a bedroom.

Mr Bowen said: ’The Crown allege he had an unhealthy interest in the girl which developed into touching her three times.’

The complainant said she was camping with a schoolfriend at Steps Bridge and they spent much of the time lying in and listening to Radio 1.

She said she went into the woods with her friend and Wale, who seemed to be pleasant and friendly until the incident.

She told a jury: ’He was laughing and joking with us. He walked along with an arm around each of us and suggested we play hide and seek.

’My friend was sent out to go and hide and when she had gone he grabbed me and pulled my away. I thought at first we were going to hide but what sticks in my mind is the lay he lifted my top and his hands feeling my chest. I remembered I was very frightened.’

The woman said she did not tell her friend and went to stay with her the next summer, where she found Wale was also at the house.

She said she tried her best to avoid being left alone with him and succeeded, until one day when she was in a bedroom with him and her friend.

She said her friend went to the bathroom and Wale started touching her almost immediately, putting a hand inside her underwear and asking: ’Is that nice?’.

She said: ’I was frozen and holding on to the sheets and praying my friend would come back. When she did he went straight back to chatting and banter.’

The trial continues.