A ‘MONSTER’ who raped a five-year-old girl while he was babysitting at her Coventry home more than 30 years ago has been given a 17-year prison sentence.
But Eric Fletcher, who also sexually abused another girl, had to be sentenced in his absence – after efforts to find him have so far failed since he absconded part-way through his trial.
Fletcher (55) had denied four charges of indecent assault and one of rape, all committed in the mid-1970s to mid-1980s.
But after absconding part-way through his trial earlier this year, he was found guilty of all five charges by a jury at Warwick Crown Court.
The case had then been adjourned while efforts were made to track Fletcher, who had been living in Dublin and is believed to have fled to Eire, down.
But after being told that after four months he had still not been apprehended, Judge Andrew Lockhart QC decided to sentence him in his absence – so that at least his victims would know the sentence he will have to serve.
Fletcher, who is from Coventry, where the offences took place, but more recently of The Chandler, Arran Quay, Dublin, was jailed for 17 years for the rape – which he will begin serving once he is arrested.
He was given concurrent four-year terms for the indecent assaults after the judge pointed out that the maximum sentence for those offences at the time was five years.
In addition Fletcher, who served a three-year sentence in 1986 for indecent assaults on another young girl, was ordered to register as a sex offender for life.
Marcus Harry, defending, said: “I am in some difficulty, because my last instructions were during the trial.
“The most powerful mitigation in relation to the first complainant is his age at the time; he was 15 to 16.”
During the trial the jury heard that Fletcher indecently assaulted that girl in the mid-70s while he was babysitting at her home in Coventry when she was about five.
But the most serious offence, the rape, was committed against another girl when Fletcher was 19 or 20 and she was aged between five and seven.
Two or three years later, in the early 80s, there was a further incident when he saw the girl at a flat in Coventry, when she was about eight.
Neither of his victims came forward at the time, or in 1986 when Fletcher was jailed for three years by a judge at Coventry Crown Court for indecently assaulting another girl.
The girl Fletcher had raped has led a troubled life since the incident, and had to seek psychiatric help in 1990.
When she found the courage to report it to the police in 1997 and Fletcher was arrested, he denied the matter and no further action was taken at that time.
But in 2010 his first victim came forward and Fletcher was arrested as he was on his way to Eire.
He denied it and was granted bail – and a European arrest warrant was issued when he failed to surrender to his bail and said he would not return from Ireland.
Fletcher was not arrested on that until 2013, only to be bailed again by the authorities in Dublin before being arrested again and finally extradited. Yet despite that, he was granted bail before his trial.