WILTSHIRE'S most prolific paedophile received six life sentences today for more than 100 vile crimes against children as young as two.

Peter Daniels, aged 70, glared and shrugged from the dock of Salisbury Crown Court as he received the life-long jail term.

Judge Richard Parkes described the pervert as "an expert in grooming".

Daniels, previously of Eyres Drive in Alderbury but now of HMP Isle of Wight, was sentenced for 78 offences of child sexual abuse against 22 young victims aged between just two and 15-years-old, after admitting the charges in December.

The children were abused by the 70-year-old over a 10-year period.

Despite receiving six life sentences and numerous other lengthy jail terms Daniels will only be required to serve a minimum of nine years behind bars before his case can go before a parole board.

The court heard that Daniels gained access to his victims, who are all from Salisbury, by befriending their families (who were often vulnerable) and grooming not only the children involved, but their parents.

Victim statements from parents of Daniels' young victims said they felt blame for "failing to protect" their children.

But Judge Parkes told the 12 families who attended today's hearing: "It is a warm and human impulse to like and to trust others.

"Daniels was widely known and liked. He seemed a very kind, helpful and decent person.

"They [the victims' parents] have no reason whatsoever to blame themselves for failing to realise he has a very dark side."

He was previously jailed for 12 years in October 2017, after admitting 12 offences, including rape, against the first two young victims to come forward.

Detective Sergeant Eirin Martin of Salisbury CID told the Journal that after Daniels' first two victims came forward, hard drives were uncovered at his home containing hundreds of thousands of indecent images of children - 4,000 of which he had created himself, documenting his abuse over the past 10 years, and a further 600,000 internet downloads.

The images, a combination of still photographs and videos, were crucial evidence in bringing the scale of Daniels' offending to light.

The abuse took place in Daniels' home in Alderbury, where he lived alone, and a representative of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Claire Booth said in the footage "a small number of the victims were asleep, but for the most part they were awake and fully aware of what was happening".

Ms Booth described Daniels as being like an uncle to his victims.

"[He was like] a loving, caring uncle, who looked after them, treated them with kindness and love, treated them to days out and gifts, and made them feel special," she said ahead of today's sentencing.

But she said he had two different personas, and this was in part what made his attempts at grooming and manipulation so successful.

"The Mr Daniels in the police interview appeared to be a calculating, cold man," she added. "He seemed to have very little appreciation for how his offending could have in any way impacted on these children, and on their emotional and physical wellbeing."

DS Martin said: "This investigation is the biggest child sexual exploitation investigation that Wiltshire Police has ever undertaken and involved more than 25 specialist officers from across our county.

"The investigation involved interviewing of over 30 children, witness statements and examination of a large amount of digital media and exhibits."

And she praised the victims involved for their bravery, and for preventing further children from falling prey to the paedophile.

"Daniels is a predatory offender who was actively offending at the time of his arrest, and who I have no doubt would have gone on to offend if it had not been for the bravery of the victims coming forward and telling us what has happened to them," she said.

A spokesperson for the NSPCC in the South West said: “Daniels demonstrated manipulative and deceitful behaviour to exploit a harrowing number of children over an extended period of time.

“He gave no thought to the affects his vile actions would have on his victims, both in the short and long term, and it is right he is held to account for each and every child he abused.

“Those preyed on by Daniels have demonstrated immense courage to come forward and it is crucial they receive the required help and support.”

If you have any concerns or suspect a young person is a victim or is at risk of child sexual exploitation you can contact Wiltshire Police on 101, or 999 in an emergency, or the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000, help@nspcc.org.uk or report a concern online.