A 63-year-old lorry driver who raped a schoolgirl and threatened to kill her with a knife if she told anyone of her ordeal has been jailed for 15 years.

David Piper, of Hands Orchard, Great Comberton, near Pershore, was found guilty of both charges by 11-1 majority verdicts after a trial at Worcester Crown court.

Piper was alleged to have carried out a string of other sex offences stretching back 31 years. He was acquitted on three counts of indecent assault and two of indecency with a child.

But the jury of five women and seven men found him guilty by 10-2 majority verdicts on five further charges of indecent assault and five of indecency with a child.

Judge Alistair McCreath said it was a serious case of prolonged sexual abuse culminating in threats designed to maintain the victim’s silence.

Simon Phillips, prosecuting, alleged that Piper had sex with the child when she was 11 or 12 and did not understand what was happening to her. He warned her to keep his behaviour secret and at one stage threatened her with death.

The offences stopped in 1985 but the victim realised what had been happening after she watched a TV documentary about child abuse. She later told her husband and complained to police in 2008.

Piper told the court that he had never threatened to cut the victim’s throat with a knife. His barrister, Kristina Montgomery, alleged the complainant came from a dysfunctional family and drank too much. She was a complex individual who had a history of falling out with people.

Speaking after the hearing, case officer Detective Constable Maxine Rawlins, of South Worcestershire police, said: “Officers always take matters such as this extremely seriously, regardless of how much time has passed since the offence or offences took place.

“In this case the incidents happened up to 31 years ago but officers worked hard to ensure the victim saw Piper brought to justice.

“Experienced, specialist officers in the public protection unit work closely with other agencies and would encourage victims to come forward and make contact, even if not directly with the police initially.”