DEVASTATED Sophie O’Farrell has said she can finally rest now her step-father has been jailed for raping her mother after he spent three years on the run.
Christopher Birch, 34, (pictured), formerly of Gosport, fled to Spain while on bail charged with raping Louise Birch and making Sophie look at sexual images when she was a child when he sent her pictures of his genitalia.
He was brought back to this country last month and thrown into prison after a European arrest warrant was issued earlier this year.
Sophie, of Waterlooville, wants her story to be published in The News now Birch has been caught.
Tragically her mother Louise died while Birch was still on the run.
The 18-year-old was aged around eight when she saw Birch rape her mum.
‘My bed was right up against her wall, you could hear it,’ she said.
‘If you can hear your mum screaming, then you’re going to go in there.
‘He was stopping my mum from saying anything with his hand over her mouth.
‘It’s not like he stopped when I walked into the room.
‘He just said “it’s ok we’re just playing”.
‘I was confused when I saw it. I knew it wasn’t right.
‘I said something the next morning and my mum said “we were playing”.
‘There was always something between us after that, and I do blame him for that.
‘Now she’s dead I can’t regain that with her.
‘That is upsetting because he’s done that. He’s ruined a lot of lives.
‘It’s hard to rekindle relationships when you know something so horrible has happened to someone.’
Birch moved into the family home in Cosham in 2004 for a few months before they moved to Waterlooville.
Sophie’s mum Louise met Birch in late 2004, and they married in December 2005 before splitting in 2007.
After the split, he sent pictures to Sophie showing his genitalia. She was just 13.
She said: ‘It was vile. It sickened me.
‘It was disgusting to think that he was meant to be a father to me. That was a big thing to me.’
Police contacted the family in June 2010 while investigating a harassment case involving Birch.
He was convicted of harassment and given a sexual offences order.
Sophie and Louise then told police of the rape and messages. They recorded video witness statements, detailing the crimes.
Birch was arrested and charged with five counts of rape and two charges of causing a child to look at an image of sexual activity between 2004 and 2010.
But police were forced to launch a manhunt after he was spotted fleeing the country on a Calais-bound ferry from Dover in May 2011.
He had been due to appear at Portsmouth Crown Court and was on bail.
At the time, Louise was seriously ill and had undergone a kidney transplant and had her leg amputated.
She died in December 2011, aged just 33.
Birch had previously denied raping Louise and sending the messages and a jury trial went ahead without him in May 2012.
He was found guilty of two counts of rape and two counts of causing a child to look at an image of sexual activity.
The jury found him not guilty of three counts of rape charges. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Sophie said giving evidence in court was traumatic, and she was unable to move on knowing he was still free.
She added: ‘He was trying to say he hadn’t done it – if he hadn’t then why run away?
‘If that hadn’t have happened, we wouldn’t be here three years down the line.
‘I could’ve moved on with my life. I’m happy that he’s finally going to see justice for what he’s done.
‘It will put it to rest. Now he’s (in prison) I know where he is.
Sophie’s grandmother and Louise’s mum Linda O’Farrell, 58, said she was pleased justice had been served.
She said ‘My daughter and granddaughter have got their justice now.’
Detective Constable Ian Borsley was the officer in charge of the investigation.
He said: ‘A small number of officers from Hampshire Constabulary used various methods to locate Birch for some time following his disappearance.
‘He was located by Spanish authorities in July.’
Man was on the run ‘scared’ over facing his crimes
RAPIST Christopher Birch ran scared when he was due in court.
Birch fled on bail while due to appear at Portsmouth Crown Court on rape charges and causing a child to look at images of sexual activity.
When he was finally brought back to court in July this year and then sentenced for failure to surrender, Birch was told he caused delays to his trial and cost police money and that he had shown disregard for the court.
At Portsmouth Crown Court last week, Judge Sarah Munro QC sentenced Birch to seven months in prison for failing to surrender.
She told the court he fled while his wife and victim Louise Birch was very ill.
Judge Munro said: ‘The decision you made to abscond led to delays in the trial process and vast expense as the police tried to locate you. In absconding yourself you looked to avoid a conviction. Your wife was alive but very ill when the process started.
‘It’s hard to imagine a more serious offence of this kind. There must be an additional penalty.’
Birch was handed a seven-month sentence to run consecutively from his 15-year sentence handed to him previously.
Judge Munro added his escape to Spain knocked public confidence in the justice system and was a drain on resources.
Unyime Davies, defending, said Birch said he was remorseful, adding: ‘The first thing he wanted to do is to extend his severe apologies to the court.
‘What he wants me to say is that he was simply scared. He was concerned he was not going to get the trial he wanted. He doesn’t want me to put forward any excuses.’
Flasher turned rapist
IT WAS a crime that left women and girls scared to walk alone and sparked an undercover police operation.
Christopher Birch had previously exposed himself to schoolgirls, jumping out of bushes with his pants around his ankles while performing a sex act.
Birch, 34, formerly of Walker Place, Bridgemary, was even branded the ‘Gosport Flasher’ at the time.
Police launched an undercover operation, with eight plain-clothes officers patrolling trying to catch him.
Birch was found guilty of indecent exposure and given 180 hours’ community service in April 2005.
He was convicted of three counts of outraging public decency and three counts of indecent exposure between April 1 and June 16 in 2004.
He had admitted the offences in police interview but then tried to claim he was just urinating.
Sophie O’Farrell, 18, said she did not know if her mother knew of the case.