The two daughters were made pregnant 19 times; there were nine births, five miscarriages and five terminations. Seven of the children are alive but suffer genetic deformities.
After pleading guilty to 25 counts of rape, at Sheffield Crown Court, northern England, the presiding judge Alan Goldsack - calling it "the worst (case) I have come across" in 40 years of judicial practice - said the man should serve a minimum of 19.5 years before being eligible for parole. South Yorkshire Police Chief Superintendent Simon Torr said:
"The victims of these terrible crimes have asked me to state the following: 'His detention in prison brings us only the knowledge that he cannot physically touch us again. The suffering he has caused will continue for many years, and we must now concentrate our thoughts on finding the strength to rebuild our lives.' "
Many questions abound as to how the crimes this man committed went unnoticed by the authorities. Despite visiting hospitals and meeting with social workers over the 27 years of abuse, no investigation was launched into the family. Authorities are investigating exactly how the rapist was never called to account by neighbors, teachers, doctors, social workers, police or his extended family. The 56-year-old man was only apprehended when his daughters finally broke their silence.
Prosecutors told the court that the man began raping his daughters in 1981, from the time they were 8 or 10 years old, beating them when they resisted. They described how the defendant used intimidation, fear and evasiveness to keep his secret. He warned his children to keep quiet and when they were older he beat them. Each daughter said she was unaware the other was being abused until the pregnancies began. "The defendant also ensured that his family were kept isolated and that there were very few visitors to the home," prosecutor Nicholas Campbell told Sheffield Crown Court.
"The victims were too frightened to tell anyone, even their mother," Campbell said. The court was told that the girls' mother left their father in the early 1990s, more than a decade after the abuse began, and it is unclear whether she knew what was going on.
The girls would be raped up to three times a week, and the assaults would continue through pregnancies. Their only reprieve came after they had just given birth or when they were ill because of the abuse.
If either daughter tried to refuse their father's attacks, they would be punched, kicked and or held to the flames of a gas fire, burning their eyes and arms, PA reported.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that people "will rightly want to know how such abuse could go on for so long without the authorities and the wider public services discovering it and taking action."
"If there is a change to be made in the system and the system has failed, we will change the system as a result of the inquiries," Brown said.
There were, however, telltale signs of the abuse:
- A school asked questions about burn marks on one girl's arm, but it was attributed to bullying.
- In 1997, the daughters' brother went to police to report the incest. But his sisters refused to cooperate and the investigation stalled.
- Medical staff also had concerns about the high number of abnormalities in the women's pregnancies. One doctor even asked one of the women whether her father was the father of her children. She denied it.
- in 1998 one daughter rang Childline, a charity to help abused kids, and asked for assurances about being able to keep her children if she came forward. When Childline could not make that guarantee, the daughter did nothing more to raise her plight.
"Where were the medical professionals? Where were the social workers? What were they doing for the last 20 years?" said Nick Clegg, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats, who represents a district of Sheffield.
In June the two women finally reported their abuse to social workers leading to the arrest, trial and conviction of their father.