A 'SHAMELESS' child abuser has been jailed after a girl became one of the youngest witnesses to give evidence in a British court.

Stephen Cox abused two different children but was caught because the mother of one of the victims noticed changes in her behaviour.

Cox was described as being totally lacking in remorse and of having inflicted serious harms on the two girls as he was jailed for nine years at Exeter Crown Court.

He was photographed by police after his arrest with a Blackbeard-style dreadlocked beard, similar to that worn by the 18th century pirate Edward Teach.

The younger of his two victims was video interviewed by specially trained police and a little older when her cross examination was pre-recorded.

The jury at Cox’s trial in May were played both recording and two similar ones made by the older girl. Cox denied any sexual activity but was found guilty.

During the trial Recorder Mr Donald Tait told the jury they should assess the children’s evidence as they would if they had given it live in court.

He explained that the procedures, known as special measures, were intended to make it less intimidating for young children to give evidence.

Cox was said to have a ‘significant sexual attraction to children’ by the writer of a probation report and the Judge categorised him as a dangerous offender who poses a real risk of harming children in the future.

Cox, aged 44, of Hillsdon Road, Torquay, denied but was found guilty of seven offences of sexual assaults on children under 13, one of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity and three of sexual activity in the presence of a child.

He was jailed for nine years with a five year extended licence, put on the sex offenders’ register for life and made subject to an indefinite Sexual Harm Prevention Order which will restrict his future contact with children.

The judge told him: 'I have listened carefully to the victim personal statements and it is quite clear that your behaviour has had a very significant effect on these two young girls.

'You denied these offences. Even now you are denying them. You have shown no remorse whatsoever. All the offences are serious because of the girls’ vulnerability and age.

'There was a significant amount of grooming. The probation report says you have a significant sexual attraction to children and your behaviour was pre-meditated and persistent.

“I have come to the conclusion, without any doubt, that you fulfil the definition of dangerousness.”

Miss Mary McCarthy, prosecuting, said the abuse happened in the late 2010s in North Devon and came to light when the older girl, then aged six, told her mother what had happened.

In their pre-recorded evidence, the two children said Cox had touched them and devised an ‘elephant game’ in which he encouraged them to touch him.

Cox denied touching the children, getting them to touch him, or masturbating in front to them. He said: “No, I have never done that.”

After the case, Detective Constable Terry Hodgson, who led the investigation, said: 'We welcome today’s sentence.

'It is an extremely positive outcome for the victims in this case who have suffered significant sexual abuse. The outcome today is a testament to their bravery.

'Their incredible courage in reporting this matter and supporting a prosecution has resulted in bringing this offender to justice.

'This is an important reminder that such reports will always be taken seriously by the police and justice will be sought. We would always encourage victims to come forward.

'Sexual assaults have a devastating impact on victims and Devon & Cornwall Police are committed to working the criminal justice system to make our communities safer.'