A child rapist has been put behind bars after a nationwide public appeal when he went on the run for 16 months.
Michael Philip Leaberry, who lived in Saltney, was jailed for 12 years for his crimes at Mold Crown Court on Thursday (May 25).
The 36-year-old was initially arrested and bailed but failed to turn up for further questioning.
Police issued a public appeal to trace him – including an appeal on the BBC television Crimewatch programme.
A tip off from a member of the public led to his arrest in Bournemouth in February.
He had tricked authorities there into believing that he was a victim of modern slavery.
Using the false name of Michael Kemp, he was provided with accommodation in Grosvenor Gardens after he said he fled to the resort for his own safety.
The truth was that the former garage worker was wanted on child rape offences in North Wales.
He fled after initial questioning by detectives about the oral rape of a little girl aged under ten.
A judge at Mold Crown Court told him today that his decision to abscond had simply added to the trauma suffered by his very young victim and her family who had allowed him to baby sit.
Leaberry was told he would have received 15 years if he had been convicted after trial.
He was ordered to register with the police as a sex offender for the rest of his life and he was made subject of an indefinite Sexual Harm Prevention Order.
The defendant admitted oral rape, sexual assault and incitement and was told by Judge Rhys Rowlands there was a great disparity in their ages. He was old enough to be her father.
“How anyone could view a child this young as a sexual object is quite shocking,” he said.
She was very young and particularly vulnerable and he had engineered a situation where he could be left alone with her.
The effect on the family had been profound and they had been forced to move home because of the memories of what had happened.
He had been “at large” between September 2015 and the beginning of this year which understandably caused the victim and her family a great deal of extra stress.
Leaberry, who had never been in any trouble before, was described as a high risk of harm to young children.
Prosecuting barrister Simon Rogers said Leaberry initially denied six offences and a trial had been fixed. But he then admitted three offences and the others remained on the file.
The defendant persuaded a couple who rarely went out to allow him to babysit the victim – telling them he had been an au pair, a nanny and a carer for elderly people.
But the girl later told her mother what had happened.
She said he had wanted her to play a game where he would get her to “touch his bits” and he touched her. He would ask her if she would like to do different things and carried on even when she said no.
She felt sad and initially told no one.
He was arrested and interviewed, and bailed to return to Wrexham police station in September 2015. But he failed to do so, and in November he was circulated as missing and a public appeal was launched.
In September last year there was an appeal on Crimewatch and following information from a member of the public he was arrested at a hostel in Bournemouth after falsely claiming that he fled to the resort for his own safety as a victim of modern slavery.
A total of 76 indecent images of children were found on his mobile phone and search terms indicated a sexual interest in young children.
In a victim impact statement the mother told how his crimes had left a trail of devastation within the family and they had to move home because of the memories of what had happened.
The fact that he later absconded had put the family through Hell, she explained.
She said he had earlier pestered them to allow him to baby sit because they rarely went out.
Defending barrister Mark Connor said that the defendant wished to express “his deepest sorrow” for what he had done.
He had never been in trouble before, and up until the offences – which all happened on the one occasion – he had been able to regulate his urges.
Unlike others who committed such offences he had been extremely candid and wanted help.
Mr Connor said if he himself had been able to arrange a conference with the defendant earlier then he would have entered his guilty pleas earlier.
It was no excuse but the defendant himself had been abused as a child.
He had an insight into his difficulties and wanted to be rehabilitated, said Mr Connor.