A 56-year-old man who became obsessed with a 12-year-old girl, lavishing her with money and gifts so he could sexually abuse her, has been jailed for 33 months.

Paul Connolly groomed the child with presents of clothing and CDs and sent her “disturbing and disgusting” text messages before touching her bottom and breasts.

Connolly, of Bayne Drive, Bierley, Bradford, was yesterday convicted by a jury at Bradford Crown Court of four charges of sexually abusing two young girls. He was found guilty of indecently assaulting a girl under the age of ten at his home in the late 1990s and four offences of sexually assaulting a child under 13 in 2012.

Connolly undid the first girl’s trousers and touched her indecently when she was watching a film at his home. He repeatedly abused his second victim after befriending and grooming her.

During the trial, the jury was told of inappropriate text messages Connolly sent to the 12-year-old and shown photos of young girls, including his victim, on his phone.

After the verdicts, Connolly’s barrister, Jeremy Hill-Baker, said his client had suffered from recent ill health and had undergone surgery for stomach cancer.

He would find a prison sentence difficult and on his release would be unable to return to the area where he had lived for many years.

Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC said Connolly’s texts to the 12-year-old were “utterly inappropriate, highly disturbing and quite disgusting.”

Photos on his phone showed he had “a predilection for the company of young girls.”

“It was wholly inappropriate for you, in your mid-fifties, to lavish such affection on a young girl. You groomed her with presents of money and clothes, and so on, so you could abuse her in such a way that she would think it was normal and not complain,” the judge said.

“You were obsessed with her, you harassed her and you frightened her.”

Judge Durham Hall said it was the girl’s fear of Connolly that led her to complain.

He labelled him “potentially a quite dangerous sex offender.”

The judge made a Sexual Offences Prevention Order to protect Connolly’s victims and young girls in the future and ordered him to sign on the sex offenders’ register for life.

After the case, Detective Constable Richard Dove, of the Bradford District Safeguarding Unit, said: “I would like to commend the victims for having the courage to come forward and report his crimes and hope that the sentence passed down today helps to give them some closure.

“The Bradford District Safeguarding Unit's specially trained officers will thoroughly and sensitively investigate any reports of sexual abuse, whether historic or otherwise, with the aim of bringing the perpetrators to justice.”