Paul Bairstow, 56, who faked his death in order to avoid justice, was nabbed while having a breakfast at Tesco.
The police launched a national search to trace the perpetrator after he left a series of handwritten suicide notes a day before his sentencing to numerous individuals including his parents, before vanishing into the woods around Newton Abbot, Devon.
He was arrested three weeks later and held in custody prior to his sentencing for his twisted abuse of a seven-year-old girl. Ultimately he arrived in detention after being monitored by police using telephones and bank cards.
When police arrested him, a noose and tablets were found in his vehicle, but the judge denied that he was really planning to kill himself. The court also heard how the adult abuser lied to the mother of his daughter, saying that he was 12 years younger than he was really, and that he was a retired Royal Marine.
He was thereafter branded a “coward” by Judge David Evans who jailed him for six years. This came after he was convicted in absence by a jury on two charges of sexual assault on a girl aged under 13, one of engaging a child in sexual activity and absconding. He is to be placed on the Sex Offenders’ register for life.
Judge David Evans said:
"You were cowardly as you tried to avoid the moment of truth.
"You were just cowardly in avoiding the moment of truth. Your failure to attend gave rise to considerable anxiety and disruption and the deployment of police resources.
“It caused a delay in a trial with child witnesses. It went back a day and that is significant in anyone’s eyes. It caused the victim additional upset and it was another three weeks after the verdict that you were located.”