A 76-YEAR-OLD man has been jailed for three years after he admitted sexually assaulting two seven-year-old girls nearly 20 years apart.

Pensioner Colin Brunskill originally faced one charge of indecent assault when he appeared at Darlington Magistrates' Court last year.

This offence took place between April and October 1996.

But media coverage of the court appearance prompted a second victim to tell police she too had been indecently assaulted by Brunskill, between December 1978 and December 1979.

Brunskill, of Carmel Court, Darlington, originally pleaded not guilty to the first charge.

But he changed his plea a week before his trial date and admitted both assaults.

Teesside Crown Court heard how the defendant had befriended his first victim in 1978.

He sexually assaulted her one evening after the girl had gone to bed.

Ruth Phillips, prosecuting, said: "The girl began sobbing. The defendant told her, 'don't cry, it will be all right. It will be our little secret'."

Ms Phillips said the assault caused the victim to become distrusting of men and withdrawn.

When Brunskill was arrested, he told police he could not remember carrying out the offence.

He told them: "I can't believe this is happening. If I did this, I should be shot. I am disgusted in myself. I just don't remember."

Brunskill also asked police to apologise to the complainant.

Ms Phillips told the court the second assault took place in 1996 on a seven-year-old girl.

Brunskill sexually assaulted the girl while she was in bed.

James Kemp, mitigating, said Brunskill was of previous good character.

He said: "This is not a pattern of offending on the same person. It is two different offences that are separated by a number of years, on different girls."

The Recorder of Middlesbrough, Judge Peter Fox, said: "In each case there is a serious breach of trust. In each case the consequences for your victims have been severe for a long time.

"There is no avoiding a significant prison sentence in this case, you must know that."