CAROL Higgins’ story shocked the nation in 2019 when – finally – her despicable ‘dad’, Elliott Appleyard, was jailed for raping her countless times under a reign of terror which started when she was just 12.

He denied multiple counts of rape and indecent assault which happened between April 1982 and April 1985, forcing his daughter to once again re-live the shocking ordeal she had been put through.

I remember covering that two-week trial at Leeds Crown Court, sickened that a so-called father could firstly commit such heinous crimes and secondly sit there and deny every single thing that was put to him.

Thankfully, the jury saw through the monster’s claims and he was jailed for 20 years at the age of 71.

However, there’s much more to Carol’s harrowing story than the long battle for justice.

She escaped her father’s clutches aged 15 and bravely moved into a rented house at 16 in Penistone, but West Yorkshire Police did not press charges against Appleyard, formerly of Gilthwaites Crescent, Denby Dale, when she first complained about her abuse in 1984.

Carol – without doubt the bravest and most persistent person I’ve ever spoken to during my time at the Chronicle – went back to the police again in 2005, 2012 and 2014 and, when she returned in 2015, officers decided to investigate when she wrote to Dee Collins – who was then the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police – urging her to reopen the case following decades of mental struggles as a result of the abuse she endured.

The jury heard in the trial that Appleyard raped his daughter at home in his bed, kitchen and living room, and on another occasion in a ferry’s cabin on the way to Sweden.

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He ‘ruled the household through violence’ and threats of beatings, according to prosecutors, who said he took Carol to a tattoo parlour in Barnsley town centre to have his nickname – ‘Sam’ – imprinted on her shoulder.

As well as this, he put his ex-wife’s engagement ring on his daughter’s finger, which Carol said was an attempt to turn her into ‘a wife’.

‘Vile’ doesn’t even come close to describing Appleyard.

The mother-of-two – who is now a successful author and a veteran public speaker – has been in a civil court battle with the police having accused them of infringing her human rights, culminating in the police finally apologising for the ‘trauma’ their bumbling officers caused.

Having spoken to the Chronicle this week, she reiterated the now non-contested facts that she had sought the police’s help and was continuously advised against it, with warnings that her name would be ‘blackened’ if she continued.

A vulnerable teenager, escaping her dad’s abuse and going to police – who she should have been able to have complete faith in – should have been applauded for complete bravery in that situation but instead was effectively mocked by the force.

The letter of apology, issued by West Yorkshire Police’s Chief Constable John Robins to Carol, confirmed the force had failed in its duty to protect a vulnerable person and that lessons had been gained.

It’s available to read on today’s front page but it was ‘bittersweet’ for Carol, who welcomed the acknowledgement but said it’s basically far too little and way too late.

She’s right, just like she has been all along. If only people would have listened when it really mattered.