A 56-year-old man has been jailed for 18 years for the “wicked and prolonged” sexual abuse of two young Bradford girls.

Jeffrey Gilbert was yesterday convicted of repeatedly raping the youngsters, starting when one was only seven years old.

A jury at Bradford Crown Court found Gilbert, of Bronte Close, Daisy Hill, Bradford, guilty of 11 charges of rape and two of attempted rape. He was cleared of two allegations of rape.

During the trial, the court was told that Gilbert had previously served two years’ behind bars for a serious sexual offence against another girl.

Judge Peter Benson said Gilbert’s denial of the offences had forced his two victims, now young women, to give evidence in court.

He praised their courage in coming forward to re-live the ordeals they had suffered.

Gilbert will serve a minimum of nine years in prison and then be on licence for the rest of his life. He must register as a sex offender without limit of time.

During the trial, his victims, who did not know one another, told similar versions of how Gilbert regularly and repeatedly raped them.

He abused one girl when she was aged between seven and 14 and the second youngster when she was 11. The jury was told that the offences took place in a flat in Bradford in the 1990s.

The first girl pushed Gilbert away, after suffering years of abuse, when she was 14. He tried to kiss her and she never went back to his home.

The jury heard that she used to tell Gilbert: “Please don’t do it, it hurts,” when he was raping her.

Gilbert molested the second girl when they were play fighting.

He gave one girl money and took her on shopping trips during the period he was raping her.

Now in her late 20s, she said she told her mother and close friends Gilbert had sexually abused her but she did not make it generally known.

She did not tell the police until some time later because she was not ready to make an official complaint.

After the case, Detective Constable Jodie Hayes, of the Bradford District Safeguarding Unit, said: “Gilbert took advantage of each of his victims, using his position of responsibility to commit what were a series of despicable and depraved acts.”

She added: “Both victims have displayed extreme courage in coming forward and reporting his crimes. Their bravery has ensured he will now spend a significant time behind bars and away from our communities.”