A WOMAN broke down in tears on Friday as the man who had raped and sexually abused her for eleven years of her childhood was convicted of a catalogue of offences.

Robert Benfield, 68, had denied raping and indecently assaulting her when she was aged between 5 and 15 and also denied cruelty to a boy who had once witnessed his offences against the girl.

But at Gloucester crown court last week, after a retirement of seven hours 20 minutes, the jury found him guilty by a majority of 10-2 of all 15 charges against him.

Judge Euan Ambrose remanded Benfield, of North Home Road, Cirencester, in custody pending sentence today, Thursday, at Bristol crown court.

"You have been convicted of a catalogue of very serious crimes," Judge Ambrose told Benfield.

"There is inevitably a lengthy prison sentence ahead of you. "

As soon as the jury foreman had begun to announce the guilty verdicts, the victim, 49, broke down in the public gallery and was comforted by friends and witness support workers.

Benfield stood listening to the verdicts but he betrayed no other emotion other than to bow his head slightly. As he turned to go to the cells he looked up at relatives in the public gallery and waved.

The 'multiple' offences against the girl began in 1970 and went on until 1981, prosecutor Rosemary Collins said.

Ms Collins told the jury that the girl kept the 'dark and terrible secret' of what happened and had not reported Benfield to the police. But she had told a boyfriend about it when she was in her late teens and had revealed some detail to a counsellor and her own mother when she was in her 20s.

When the offences against her began Benfield would show her a board with pornographic pictures stuck to it and ask her to simulate the poses or sex acts shown, said Ms Collins.

Later he started having intercourse with her.

Ms Collins said the occasion when the boy saw Benfield in his underpants standing over the naked girl as she lay on a towel had haunted the boy ever since.

He had received counselling over the years as a result of what he saw and the way that Benfield had physically abused him subsequently, she said.

The victim told the jury she and her mother took legal advice about what action they could take but were told it would not be worth it because no-one would believe the allegation.

"We were told it would be my word against his and that I would be hauled over the coals in court," she said. "I was told nothing would be done about it. This was the early 80s and it was very different then."

The family of Robert Benfield have said they will be lodging an appeal.