A PROFESSIONAL darts player has been convicted of a string of sex attacks on a schoolgirl after a jury returned a unanimous verdict on all charges.

Tony Eccles was accused of carrying out five counts of rape and five counts of indecent assault on the same woman a number of years ago.

The 44-year-old, of Northgate, Hartlepool, was found guilty following a two-week trial at Teesside Crown Court.

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Eccles maintained his innocence throughout the trial and branded the accusations as ‘lies’.

Throughout the trial he denied the charges and sought to challenge several details of the victim’s account.

He denied ever abusing the victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, claiming that he was at hospital on the night of one of the attacks and did not see the girl.

The court heard how Eccles’ behaviour escalated from touching her indecently to repeatedly having sex with her.

His victim had told the jury that Eccles said she was “special” as he forced her to have sex against her wishes, including once in some bushes outdoors.

The victim, now an adult, also explained how on one occasion he used a sex toy on her.

His defence barrister, Jim Withyman said his client did not require a pre-sentence report and was expecting a lengthy prison sentence.

Nicknamed The Viper, Eccles has won 13 tournaments in his 14-year darts career. He has played with the game’s best and was seeded fourth at The Lakeside in 2007 and 20th in the PDC World Championship in 2009.

Eccles, who was remanded in custody, is due to be sentenced on Thursday once a victim impact statement has been read by the judge.