A MAN is facing a lengthy prison sentence after being convicted of 22 historic sex offences, including rape, on two underage girls.

William Shepherd, who claimed the alleged offences simply did not happen, was found guilty of all the charges after a six-day trial at Durham Crown Court.

All the allegations came to light last year, brought by both complainants, who are now adult women.

The 59-year-old defendant denied a single count of rape at a plea hearing in March, but indicated not guilty pleas to 20 other sexual offences.

His counsel, Robert Mochrie, told that hearing the defence would want to check phone records of both complainants to see if there was any “collusion”.

By the time a pre-trial hearing was staged at the court, last month, a further charge was added to the indictment.

Shepherd formally denied all 22, 11 of indecent assault, nine of indecency with a girl and two of rape, at that hearing, and maintained his denials at his trial, which began last week.

Asked why he thought his accusers brought the allegations, he said they were lying.

But, following lengthy deliberation, the jury returned unanimous guilty pleas to all counts yesterday.

Judge Ray Singh, who presided over the trial, told Shepherd: “You have been found guilty of all the offences which you faced.

“I’m going to sentence you at a later date, but you are now remanded in custody.”

Shepherd, of Hareson Road, Newton Aycliffe, was previously on bail up to and during the trial.

Judge Singh told the jury that in sentencing such cases the court has to bear in mind changes made to the law since the offences took place, under the 2003 Sexual Offences Act.

He asked for impact statements from both complainants to be sought by the Crown prior to the sentencing hearing, on October 13.