A VILE rapist who subjected child victims to years of “serious, systematic and sustained” abuse hid behind the “mask” of his community standing.

Army reservist Simon Chilton, 36, who abused two children between 2013 and 2018, has been jailed for 21 years.

Chilton, who was also involved in football coaching, was arrested after one of the victims summoned up the courage to speak out in November 2018 to stop the abuse.

In September 2019, he was charged with eight counts of rape, four counts of sexual assault, four counts of sexual assault by penetration, two counts of sexual assault, and one count of assault by beating.

Chilton, formerly of Glover Close, Clacton, denied all the charges, but following a trial at Chelmsford Crown Court was found guilty of seven counts of rape, four counts of sexual assault by penetration, two counts of sexual assault, and one count of assault by beating.

He was found not guilty of one count of rape.

Chilton was jailed for a total of 21 years when he appeared at the same court today.

He must serve two-thirds of the sentence before he is released and will remain on licence for the rest of the sentence.

He will also be the subject of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order when he is released.

Barry Gilbert, mitigating, said it was “very difficult to find any mitigation here” but said the offences were not categorised as a “campaign”.

Speaking to Chilton, Judge Christopher Morgan said: “There is one side to your character where you can demonstrate empathy and understanding and assistance to other individuals.

“You have worked hard during your adult life. You have progressed in your employment and also have activities within the community, which support good order within the community, including training for football and your Army reservist position.

“Those positive factors cloud and mask what was going on for a considerable period of time.”

He added that the victims’ biggest fears were that they would not be believed due to Chilton’s “standing in the community”.

Judge Morgan added: “Your behaviour has robbed these children of their young lives. They will be scarred for life.”

The case was a first in which police used new powers to better support vulnerable victims by allowing their evidence to be pre-recorded at an early stage, before a trial.

It means their recollection of what happened is fresh and they don’t have to go through the ordeal of giving evidence in court.

Investigating officer Det Con Nicola Blackburn said: “The two victims have shown incredible bravery in reporting these offences to us and telling us what happened.

“We supported them to ensure their welfare and help them tell us what had happened to them.

“Simon Chilton subjected them to an unimaginable ordeal spanning years.

“He will now spend a significant time behind bars where he will not be able to endanger any more young people.

“No sentence can ever undo the damage Chilton has caused but I hope this result will help his victims to move forward.”