A MAN from Basingstoke has been jailed for raping a 15-year-old girl after the victim used Snapchat to alert a friend of her ordeal.

John Smith groomed the girl from the age of 13 with gradually increasing abuse before forcing her to have full sex in December last year.

She was too frightened to tell anyone in authority what he was doing but confided in a schoolfriend on Snapchat shortly after the humiliating final assault.

The girl told her friend she was scared of going to the police but they agreed that the friend would contact them. It enabled forensic experts to find conclusive evidence of the rape.

Smith, aged 49, of High Street, Basingstoke, and previously from Exeter, pleased guilty to two counts of rape, two counts of assault by penetration and three counts of sexual assault.

He was jailed for nine years and eight months by Judge David Evans at Exeter Crown Court.

He was put on the sex offenders register for life and made subject of a sexual harm prevention order for 25 years.

The judge told him:"She was scared to say anything to anyone in authority and worried about telling anyone what you were doing.

"I have read her victim personal statement. It is clear the impact on her of your abuse has been serious and she is struggling. She is facing the prospect of months of therapeutic work.

"No sentence that I can pass can ever repair the harm that you have done. She was vulnerable because of her age and you have caused significant psychological damage. You seem to have little understanding of the effect on her.

"I would like to commend the girl for her courage and commend her friend who had the good sense to report the matter to the police immediately, enabling them to secure the scientific evidence which gave you no option but to plead guilty."

Jason Beal, prosecuting, said the abuse began when the girl was 13 with touching over clothes and grew more serious over the next two years.

It ended with an assault in December 2018 when he raped the girl vaginally and anally. Her ordeal only finished when he said 'I better stop or I will make you pregnant'.

The police were called by a friend after a Snapchat conversation with the victim, who then made a full statement detailing the earlier abuse.

Mr Brian Fitzherbert, defending, said Smith had admitted his guilt at an early stage and spared the victim the ordeal of giving evidence.

He has been a hard working man all his life and has no previous convictions. A probation report showed that he has expressed remorse and regret for what he did.