A WEALTHY businessman is starting a 15-year prison sentence for abusing a schoolgirl four decades ago.

Leonard Wilson was told by a Teesside Crown Court judge that he had robbed his victim of her childhood.

The company director denied repeatedly raping the youngster at his home in North Yorkshire in the 1970s.

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He was convicted after a trial, and was told by Judge Michael Taylor: "You did it for your selfish gratification."

Wilson, now aged 69, of Tamebridge, Stokesley, was also put on the sex offenders' register for life.

Judge Taylor told him that his victim had suffered "immense personal consequences" because of his abuse.

Wilson confessed to having sex with the girl, but claimed it was consensual and she was over the age of 16.

The prosecution case was that she was several years younger, and was left too afraid to come forward at the time.

The court heard how she later turned to alcohol to cope and embarked on a series of unsuitable relationships.

After receiving encouragement from her family, the victim plucked up the courage to go to the police last year.

Divorcee Wilson was accused of "trying to laugh it off" by prosecutor Paul Cleasby during the week-long trial.

Before the case started, Judge Taylor gave the jury of seven women and five men a stern warning about it.

He said: "You will all be aware that there have been a number of high-profile cases taking place recently involving old allegations of sexual misconduct.

"They have got nothing whatsoever to do with this case, and you should not be influenced by what may or may not have been happening in them.

"Cases like this stir emotion, but there is no place for emotion. This is not a court of morals. It is a fact-finding mission."

Wilson was found guilty of two specimen charges of rape, and cleared of three other sexual allegations.

His lawyer, Robert Mochrie, said Wilson, who was the boss of fabrication, container and printing companies and has a property in Cyprus, would find life in prison difficult.