WAR hero Harold Edwards, 83, has been jailed for four-and-a-half years for a series of sex offences.
Outwardly, Edwards was a respectable man who served his country with distinction.
He worked as a steelworker before retiring and when he was in his 40s he was commended for saving a man’s life in a house fire.
But he had a dark secret – he had been sexually abusing children.
A court heard how one of his victims had been sworn to secrecy – and warned if she told anyone she would be taken away.
At Mold Crown Court Edwards, of New Road, New Broughton, near Wrexham, was locked up and ordered to register with the police as a sex offender for life.
A Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) was also made so that on his release his activities will be curbed.
One condition of the order is that he cannot have a child unsupervised in his home.
Edwards, a widower, admitted seven charges of indecent assault and one charge of attempted rape, involving three victims.
It all happened over an extended period after Edwards had retired.
Judge Philip Hughes told him that but for his age and infirmity the prison sentence would have been a lot longer.
“It’s a tragedy somebody like you should be appearing before a crown court for sentence at this time of your life,” the judge said.
Apart from the current offences, which were extremely serious, he had led a blameless life.
“You have now pleaded guilty to serious offences of sexually abusing three young girls,” he said.
The offences had gone on for a very long period of time, more than 20 years, after his retirement.
He had repeatedly assaulted the girls when they were aged under 13, beginning when they were aged between eight and 10.
The most serious charge was attempted rape when his victim was aged over 16.
Judge Hughes said it was an aggravating feature that he had told one of his victims that if she told anyone what was going on she would be taken away.
“That must have been very frightening for a young girl,” the judge said.
There had been elements of sexual grooming involving two of his victims.
“Unfortunately, you are still in denial in respect of much of the detail of what you did,” the judge said.
“You seem unable to take complete responsibility for it.”
Edwards, the judge said, had no perception of the effect what he had done would have on his victims.
But it had to be prison. “The public expect the courts to reflect their disgust at such behaviour towards young children,” he said.
The judge said he took into account he had served his country years ago, that he had behaved bravely in a house fire in 1970 and that he was now an old man in poor health.
“Were it not for your age and infirmity the sentence would have been considerably longer,” the judge told.
Jonathan Austin, defending, said his client, who pleaded guilty on the day of his intended trial, was sorry and ashamed.