A STUDENT NURSE broke down years after being repeatedly raped and sexually abused from the age of five and revealed her 'dark and terrible secret' to a senior hospital colleague.

Robert Benfield, 68, of North Home Road, Cirencester has denied six charges of sexually assaulting the girl between 1970 and 1978 and five of raping her between 1975 and 1981.

The retired mental health nurse, who cannot be named, told the jury of four men and eight women at Gloucester Crown Court that the alleged victim got on very well with patients and staff and was "a delightful girl."

She told the court via video link: "I was a sort-of unofficial mother figure for the student nurses and they would come and confide in me.

"One day I noticed that, while working on a ward, she looked very upset so I took her aside.

"She was very distressed but after some time she told me what had happened. She said she had been sexually abused from the age of five or six until the age of 15 or 16"

Earlier, a former neighbour of the alleged victim took the witness stand.

He said, in response to questions from prosecuting barrister Rosemary Collins: "She (the alleged victim) was my girlfriend for a couple of years but after we first had sex she broke down and told me about the abuse.

"She said that her abuser used to blindfold her.

"After our relationship ended some time later she told me that she had a relationship with a much older doctor but she couldn’t have sex with him because it reminded her of the defendant."

Later, in a police interview read out in court, Benfield said "I am devastated. There must be a lot of hate for me. None of this is true."

On the first day of the trial the court heard that Benfield would tie the girl’s limbs to the four corners of a bed to carry out his depraved acts.

He used table knives and forks to penetrate the girl from the age of five and started raping her when she was ten, it was alleged.

The offences against the girl started in 1970 and went on until 1981, the court heard.

Benfield also denies cruelty towards a boy who had once allegedly witnessed him in the act of sexually assaulting the girl. Benfield is alleged to have picked on the boy and subjected him to physical abuse from that time on.

Ms Collins said that when Benfield was arrested he denied all the allegations.

The trial continues.