A pensioner who “ruined” a young girl's life when he repeatedly sexually abused her in the 1980s has been jailed for five years.

Peter Cavilla preyed on the child, who was a friend of the family, starting when she was just eight years old, continuing for five years until she was 12.

On occasions the 70-year-old plied the youngster with drink and would also tell the girl, who he was babysitting, not to tell anyone what had happened.

And after the groping stopped the pervert also constructed a periscope to watch her in the bathroom when she visited his house.

As a result of the repeated abuse the girl, now a woman in her late thirties, said she struggled with her schooling and relationships and felt worthless.

She said she only reported the matter to the police as she was aware he had contact with other children and feared he may abuse them as they grew up.

Tessa Hingston, prosecuting, told Swindon Crown Court how the offences took place between 1982 and 1987.

She said Cavilla, who at the time she described as “a big man” and “frightening”, would touch her when he babysat for her family.

On some occasions he would give her a small amount of alcohol, and would get her to touch him.

The girl said he would tell her “Shh, don’t tell anyone”, and when she said “This is wrong,” he replied “You are a good girl, this is something special”.

In the late eighties she told her family about what had been going on but said they swept it under the carpet and, though it stopped, Cavilla was still allowed to babysit.

When she was at his house afterwards he used the periscope to spy on her from an adjoining window, but never touched her again.

In a victim impact statement the girl said she rebelled and as a result got poor exam results which affected her career prospects.

She also found it very hard to form good relationships with men and believes she is now “someone who puts up with things”.

Cavilla, of Abbey View Road, Moredon, pleaded guilty to four counts of indecent assault and one of indecency with a child.

Rob Ross, defending, said although the abuse was terrible it was not the worst of its kind.

“This is a man who other than these offences has led a blameless life. He is now a retired man who has documented problems which are going to cause him difficulties in custody,” he said.

Jailing him and ordering he register as a sex offender for life Judge Tim Mousley QC said: “Your abuse of her took many different forms.

“You were in your mid 40s at the time. You thought you were going to get away with it and you did until the victim came forward.

“These are very serious offences and there has to be a prison sentence.

“The starting point on the sentence increases to reflect the fact she was very young, that you had been trusted to look after her on occasions you plied her with alcohol, on occasions told her not to tell anybody. Each makes it more serious.

“I take into account what you did was non-penetrative, but it went on for five years. You repeated it again and again and again and you have ruined her life.”