AN abuse survivor last night told how her big brother left her life in tatters after he was convicted of historic sex crimes this week.

David Cyril Roberts from Darlington was handed a suspended jail sentence and ordered to sign the Sex Offenders’ Register after pleading guilty to assaulting his little sister in the 1960s and 70s.

Maria Ward, who has waived her right to anonymity, has lived under the shadow of trauma since the age of five. She says she lived in fear, terrified of being left alone with her brother.

Ms Ward believes Roberts, now 59, robbed her of the opportunity to live a normal life and says his abuse set her on a downward spiral that would eventually see her admitted to a psychiatric ward after suffering with anorexia, anxiety, alcohol and anger issues that left her suicidal.

After watching Roberts walk free from Manchester Crown Court, Ms Ward decided to speak out.

As she told of the impact of his abuse, she said her hopes of finally seeing him behind bars had been dashed when the judge handed down a 16-month custodial sentence, suspended for two years.

Ms Ward is angry at a sentence she describes as too lenient and says the judge’s decision fails to adequately reflect the impact of her brother’s abusive actions.

In a victim impact statement, she said: “I spent most of my life not being believed and until recently, he managed to convince everyone that it was me lying about the years of torment I suffered.

“I can’t remember a time in my life when I have not been terrified of my brother.

“From being a small child and throughout my teenage years, I was in constant fear of being left alone with him and being scared to go home if my mother was out.

“I never slept properly, for fear of being woken during the night to be abused and spent most of my childhood trying to keep out of the house.”

She the abuse had cost her her marriage and left her fearful for her children’s safety and struggling to trust anybody.

She added: “David knew exactly what he was doing, he knew the difference between right and wrong.

“He was manipulative and made sure I was frightened enough not to tell anyone about the sexual abuse.

“I was forced to move away from my family to escape him and the pressure resulted in becoming anorexic.

“When I tried to disclose to my family, he made me out to be a raving nutcase and sadly this was believed and I was further isolated.

“I now realise that my anorexia, alcohol and anger issues and on-going severe depression are down to years of physical, sexual and emotional torment.

“The abuse has affected every aspect of my life.”

Ms Ward continued: “I know that my life and how it could have been has been taken from me by David, and I cannot remember being completely happy, content or relaxed.

“He has destroyed any chance of me experiencing a normal healthy life.

“Although nothing can replace the many stolen years of my life, I now feel I am believed and can look forward to a new start.”

Roberts, of Sherborne Close, pleaded guilty to two counts of indecent assault reflecting abuse that took place between January 1966 and May 1978.