A former Auckland teacher posed as a God-fearing churchgoer but behind closed doors molested children while reading passages from the bible, a court has heard.
Stephen Gough - who can be named for the first time after name suppression lapsed - was jailed for three and a half years at Waitakere District Court yesterday after admitting nine sex charges.
The 79-year-old man, who propped himself up in the dock with the aid of a walking stick, committed "persistent, relentless and repeated" offences against three girls and a boy between 1976 and 1987.
But his heinous acts only came to light last year when victims came forward.
Police believe there could be other victims who have not come forward and are encouraging those people to contact them.
The Herald understands fresh charges against Gough will be considered if further victims are identified.
Sentencing Judge Kevin Glubb said Gough, a former intermediate school woodwork teacher was an active member of the church and gained people's confidence by his standing in the community.
"It's hard to imagine a more gross breach of trust," he said.
Some of the most shocking revelations which emerged in court were that Gough would molest victims, aged between 3 and 16, while reading the bible.
The court also heard how the offender made a peep hole under a house so he could watch children in the shower.
Judge Glubb said the offending was carefully orchestrated and Gough "used [the children] as sexual toys".
"This is a very sad day. It represents an appalling track record of invasive offending against very vulnerable young children," he said.
"It's a total disgrace."
Gough's lawyer Roger Chambers opposed an application for his client to be photographed but Crown prosecutor Evan McCaughan said three of the four victims wanted their tormentor's image to be publicised.
One of the victims made their feelings known more explicitly as Gough was led away.
"Burn in hell you piece of s***," a man said.
The judge acknowledged the impact on all those abused by the man.
"It's widely recognised prolonged offending robs young children of their joy in life and their innocence. That is what you did. They all make it clear that your offending has had a huge debilitating effect on their lives and continues to affect them very significantly," he said.
The court heard that by 1993 Gough had completed three programmes addressing his deviant sexual urges and now considered himself to be "fully cured of the terrible addiction".
He received credit for those efforts, as well as for his age and guilty plea.
No minimum period of imprisonment was imposed.
Gough's victim speaks
One of Gough's victims told the Herald his offending had ruined her life.
She said people around her knew what he was doing, but never intervened. She struggles with that daily.
"It was horrible. My mother knew this was going on, the neighbours knew, other relatives... no one ever did anything," she said.
She also believed there would be more victims and was pleased his name suppression had lapsed so his crimes could be "put out there finally".
"I have just about died five times in the last year. I've overdosed, I'm just so depressed, so pissed off with life - I'm just sick of it," she said.
"I hate him. He did this to me from when I was a little girl... I just want what he did acknowledged."
The victim said she was angry at Gough, whose "disgusting" offending had pushed her to drugs, alcohol and an eating disorder.
"I've been an alcohol and drug addict since forever. I had good jobs, I've been a good mum but what he did impacts on my life hugely."
She said his guilty plea was "a relief", but it didn't take her pain away.
"Two months ago I tried to take my life... it was pretty bad, they thought I was going to die this time. It's pretty hard. He has totally and completely ruined my life, I'm a complete mess. I drink to forget... I've been to rehab four times, I got sectioned last year because of my drinking. I'm so f***ing angry."
She said Gough had apologised to her, but his words meant nothing.
"It wasn't just the sexual abuse, he had me living in terror. I will never get over that."
The victim encouraged anyone else who had been abused to come forward.
"Just set yourself free, tell someone. If you think it's happening to someone else, do something," she said.
She wanted to thank the police for making the process of bringing Gough to justice easier for her than she initially expected.
'The police have been amazing. They have been so lovely to me."
"What he did was not fair. He should be jailed for the rest of his life."
- additional reporting Anna Leask
If you would like to speak to police about Stephen Gough, please call Detective Sergeant Murray Free at the Waitakere police on 09 477 5021.