child abuse paedophilia
The man sexually assaulted all three sisters between 1993-1999iStock

Three sisters in the UK tracked down their abusive stepfather via Facebook and took him to court, almost 20 years after the sexual assaults took place. The stepfather, James Lawton, 44, of no fixed abode, raped the sisters when they were children.

After years of keeping quiet about the events, the sisters opened up to each other and tracked Lawton down using Facebook. They discovered that Lawton had been living in Botswana, after marrying a woman from the country he met in 2004.

In 2012, the sisters reported the abuse they suffered to the UK police. Lawton was arrested in March this year, when his plane landed at Heathrow.

The sisters – Danielle Michalik-May (30) Patricia (25) and Terri-Ann Michalik (23) – have given up their right to anonymity to speak about the assaults to the Daily Mail. Danielle told the tabloid: "James stole our innocence, took away the most precious years of our life. We were just little girls, but he took full advantage of us and violated us all in the worst possible way.

"We are still haunted by what James did to us. We all have flashbacks and get upset about what he put us through, so to see him jailed is the best justice we could have asked for."

Danielle said that Lawton began abusing her when she was just 8 years old. It stopped in 1999 when Lawton was extradited from England to Ireland, to face trial for sexual assaults he committed when he was younger. Lawton was convicted and served a three-year sentence in Ireland.

"We were all terrified of him. He was a nasty violent man with an aggressive temper," the Danielle recounted. She still suffers from anxiety and panic attacks. "We just knew not to argue or ever breathe a word of what he was doing to us."

At the trial in March, Lawton pled guilty to nine counts of indecent assault and indecency carried out between 1993-1999. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

The sisters have said they fear that Lawton had abused other girls, and urged survivors of his abuse to come forward.

Under English law, survivors of sexual assaults are granted anonymity for life, preventing their names from being reported in the media. However, they are allowed to give up this right and for their identities to be reported.

If you or any children you know are affected by this story, get in touch with the NSPCC at 0808 800 5000.