A mother has been ordered to pay £35,000 to a man who sexually abused her and her daughter. In 2000 Kirsty Easthope’s late mother Irma Barnett signed a will leaving her £300,000 bungalow to Kirsty. The document also stated that Irma’s live-in partner Arthur Hepple, now 83, could live in the home until he died.
What Irma did not know was that Hepple would go on to commit sexual offences against Kirsty, now 52, and her underage daughter. Irma developed dementia and died in 2013, aged 81.
Kirsty went to the police after her mother’s death to complain that he had sexually abused both her and her then 14-year-old daughter.
Hepple, who had no previous convictions, was given a suspended prison sentence in 2014 and put on the sex offenders register.
He was put behind bars for another sex attack on a woman and her teenage daughter in 2017.
But after being released from prison, Hepple insisted on returning to the former family home in York, North Yorkshire, which prompted a court battle.
Kirsty had rented the property out while he was in prison and Hepple contested his right to return to the detached bungalow when he was released from jail in October 2018.
Estate agent Kirsty didn’t allow him to re-enter and offered him alternative accommodation of three ground floor flats, which he denied.
Now, after he took the case to Leeds County Court, a judge has ruled in Hepple’s favour and Kirsty has had to evict her tenants.
Kirsty says because she has to pay her own legal fees on top of her abuser’s, plus £35,000 in damages, she now faces a total bill of around £100,000.
After his release from prison, in 2018, Hepple insisted on returning to the detached bungalow in York, North Yorkshire, which Kirsty, an estate agent, had rented out while he was serving his prison sentence.
She said she was advised by lawyers not to allow him inside the home and instead offer him alternative accommodation. He turned it down, she says.
Kirsty, who has waived her right to anonymity, said of Hepple: “I don’t understand how he doesn’t feel ashamed and how he can want to go back and live where he isn’t welcome.
“I have been a victim throughout all of this. There has been no compensation for my suffering but catastrophic financial consequences, and my mental health has suffered immensely. I’ve felt so devastated and hopeless. At times I felt life wasn’t worth living.
“With no remorse for his crimes, including the mental and physical anguish he had put me and my daughter through, he decided to take me to court. I was totally distressed, unable to sleep or eat.
“Had my mum known of Hepple’s actions, I fully believe she would have changed her will and removed him from her home. I’ve had to be put on medication for my mental health.
“Between Christmas and New Year I was at the doctor’s and just in a right state. It’s devastating. He just wants to cause me as much hurt as possible.”
Kirsty said the bungalow at the centre of the row was bought by her dad Alan Barnett and Irma, his wife, in 1983. Alan died aged 71 in 1996. Some time after, Irma met Hepple and he moved in with her in 1999.
Kirsty said her mum and Hepple had been a normal couple, going on holidays and out to restaurants.
She said she was first abused by Hepple after her mother was diagnosed with dementia in 2003. “At first I was shocked and embarrassed and I felt silly,” she said.
“I felt like it wasn’t a police matter because they would have just laughed me out of the building. So I would just tell him to stop because it’s wrong and because he thought of me as his daughter. I would always hope it would be the last time but he was so persistent.”
But in 2013 Hepple also abused her daughter. He sneaked up on her when she got out of the shower and tried to pull a towel off her. Mum-of-three Kirsty said: “When he did it to my daughter, I just couldn’t have her living in fear the way I had done.
“My dad died and never saw his grandchildren grow up but he was such a good man. He worked hard all of his life and didn’t drive so battled on his bike in all weathers to go to work to provide a nice home.”
Kirsty’s family and friends have established a GoFundMe page to help her raise the money she needs.
She said: “I had lost all hope to be honest and when it was set up, I just started to feel a bit more positive again. I just thought what if there is light at the end of the tunnel and that I could raise the money because they want it as soon as possible.
“How on earth do you just get your hands on that amount of money?”
Hepple has yet to actually move into the bungalow. And last night one neighbour told the Mirror he was not welcome there.
She said: “We can’t believe he won. It is not as if it was a one-off offence. We have got families with young kids living all about and no one wants him back here. He is scum.”