Fermanagh man Richard Francis convicted of raping girl (9)
An Enniskillen man has been convicted of raping a nine-year-old girl.
Richard Francis was found guilty following a 10-day trial at Dungannon Crown Court.
The court heard how the abuse began during a game of hide-and-seek. Later, when he re-established contact with the victim, she challenged his behaviour, which he claimed to have thought she "wanted".
Francis (37) of Willoughby Place was convicted of raping and indecently assaulting the girl on various dates during 2006.
Then aged 26, he first sexually abused the child in a shed during a game of hide-and-seek.
The incidents occurred when the girl played with other children while visiting a relative. Francis lived nearby and often joined in playing, despite a significant age gap.
During one game, she and Francis ended up in a shed, where he touched her chest under her tee-shirt, and warned her to tell no one.
The next occasion she found herself in the shed with Francis, his behaviour escalated to rape.
On another occasion she was playing with Francis's younger sister in their home. To ensure they "would not be disturbed", he locked his sister in her bedroom before raping the victim.
The abuse ceased but after several years, Francis initiated text contact. Some of these exchanges, which he denied sending, were read in court.
He asked why the victim never came to his area anymore. On being rebuffed, he asked why she was angry with him.
The victim challenged Francis stating, "I was nine. You raped me."
He replied, "I'm sorry ... I hope to be dead soon."
The victim said, "Sorry isn't good enough ... Was I the only one you raped?"
Francis said, "Yes. I thought you wanted me to."
She replied: "I was nine. I wanted to be the queen then."
When Francis asked what she wanted him to do, she said: "I don't care what you do ... You should be in prison you ignorant, arrogant, rapist, c***. You are as bad as Jimmy Savile."
Disputing the prosecution case, the defence branded the victim an accomplished liar, stating: "A lying witness is a dangerous witness. They convince people they are telling the truth."
But the jury rejected this entirely, returning guilty verdicts on all counts after deliberating for around an hour.
His Honour Judge Neill Rafferty QC adjourned the case for the preparation of pre-sentence reports and a victim impact statement.
Defence counsel asked for continuing bail, but Judge Rafferty ruled on the basis of the conviction imprisonment was inevitable and it was therefore "not appropriate" for release.
Visibly shaking, Francis sobbed on being taken to the cells.
He was ordered to sign the Sex Offender Register before being taken to prison.
He will be sentenced next month.