A WOMAN continuously raped by her paedophile father - who was jailed for his despicable crimes decades later - has finally received an apology from the police force who continuously dismissed her claims for almost 40 years.

Elliott Appleyard was found guilty of raping and sexually assaulting Carol Higgins, from Penistone, following a two-week trial at Leeds Crown Court in January 2019 at the age of 71.

He had denied five counts of rape and ten counts of indecent assault which happened between April 1982 and April 1985 - when Carol was aged between 12 and 15 - but was found guilty by a jury and jailed for 20 years.

She escaped her father’s clutches aged 15 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 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 mother-of-two has since been in a civil court battle with the police having accused them of infringing her human rights, culminating in the police apologising for the ‘trauma’ they caused and paying compensation of £15,000, as well as the £90,000 which was accrued in years-long court costs.

Carol, who waived her right to anonymity afforded to all victims of sexual abuse upon Appleyard’s conviction, told the Chronicle: “I first reported my dad to the police for raping me in 1984.

“I was 15, had to make a 17-page statement and endure internal forensic tests.

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“They had me jumping up and down on blotting paper and I was internally bleeding.

“Whilst still in the police station an officer said to me that ‘if this goes to court your name will be blackened and dragged through the mud and you will be made out to be the biggest liar going’.

“I have lost count of how many times the police said I had lied, that there was insufficient evidence and that it would be unfair to the suspect.

“I was fighting a losing battle - I felt confused and embarrassed by what was going on when I should have been made to feel proud for bravely coming forward to report an extremely serious crime.

“The effects of the sexual, physical and psychological abuse were not limited exclusively to this period - it has had an impact on my entire adult life.

“I was once told that paternal rape is like putting a nuclear bomb under the family and picking up the pieces is impossible.

“I didn’t just lose my dad, I lost my whole family, along with my childhood, innocence and sense of self-worth.

“I was left with no choice but to live alone at 16 years old in a cold, rented house in Penistone feeling frightened with no-one to turn to.”

Carol, 55, described the apology as ‘welcome’ but ‘bittersweet’.

“The apology and settlement represents a culmination of years of fighting, from 1984 to the present day, and of never giving up.

“It is the first time in 39 years that West Yorkshire Police has acknowledged that the offences my father committed against me were not dealt with effectively and quickly.

“They say that lessons have been learned from my case and I truly hope they have.

“It acknowledges that their failure to investigate meant that I was forced to continually fight to ensure that a rapist face criminal justice.

“This re-traumatised me and exacerbated my suffering, caused me significant additional distress and unnecessarily delayed my recovery.

“If I had not had the tenacity and strength to repeatedly report the abuse despite repeated refusals to investigate historical child sexual abuse, then a serious sex offender would not have faced criminal justice.

“Discussing rape, especially paternal rape, is shied away from and is a taboo subject because it is an ugly or sensitive subject which people do not want to think about or accept happens.

“I am glad it has been recognised that their conclusions were wrong - hopefully my story will help others.

“My battle may appear to be over but while ever there are children in this world suffering, my battle will never be over.”

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

“I offer my sincere apology for the way in which you have been treated over the last 39 years,” it said.

“It is accepted that your extremely serious and truthful allegations took too long to come to justice, resulting in the delay of the prosecution of your abuser and that this was not your fault.

“The destruction of the material arising from the 1984 investigation created a situation in which you had to push in order to obtain justice.

“In hindsight, it would have been appropriate for the police and the CPS to have rebuilt the crime file in 2005 - a decision should have been made to re-investigate the matter and it is a matter of profound regret that it wasn’t.

“You were a vulnerable and traumatised victim of serious sexual abuse - it is acknowledged that the failure exacerbated your suffering and distress and it is accepted that you tried to raise this, but it was not accommodated.

“Any victim of the offence that you had been subjected to should expect to have their case dealt with effectively and quickly and with as little re-traumatisation as possible.

“I profoundly regret that this was not your experience; it is recognised that having to fight for so long to bring your abuser to justice has unnecessarily delayed your recovery from the trauma you endured.

“In closing, I offer my personal reassurance that West Yorkshire Police has learned from the mistakes made in your case.”