A WELL-KNOWN and trusted community 'character' sexually abused four young children during the 1970s and 1980s, a court heard.

Arthur Shefford was called a 'pillar of the community' at the start of his trial for historic sex abuse against children at Oxford Crown Court yesterday.

Prosecutors claim that the 77-year old of Abingdon Road, Oxford, indecently assaulted his four child victims who were aged between four and 11, on multiple occasions over a 10-year period.

Shefford, meanwhile, denies all nine counts of indecent assault as well as one count of indecency with a child.

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Outlining the case to a jury panel of six men and six women yesterday prosecutor Fern Russell said that Shefford was 'trusted by adults and children alike'.

She said: "He featured in the lives of four little girls in the late 1970s and early 1980s. who are now of course adult women.

"They all knew him as a local character. He was involved in renting television sets to houses in the [Oxford] area."

She said that he befriended a number of his alleged victims and offered horse rides on an animal he kept at a stables in the city called Sugar.

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It was while on this horse that the first alleged victim - none of whom can be named for legal reasons - claims she was indecently assaulted by Shefford.

A video recorded interview with police from the woman was played to the court where she recounted what she claims happened.

She said that after the first incident on the horse the sexual abuse 'became normal' and indecent assaults would happen on multiple occasions.

She said: "All of his times with me were opportunistic. It was not on a daily basis or a weekly basis, they were opportunistic.

"I don't know how many times it happened, a lot of times, it just became normal if you like."

She added: "Everyone knew him, he was classed as a pillar of the community. There was no reason not to trust him or for any kid not to trust him."

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She went on to say that during the sexual abuse Shefford made her feel both 'terrified' and 'intimidated'.

Jurors were also told of other allegations involving three other children whom Shefford is alleged to have indecently assaulted and incited one to engage in sexual activity.

Explaining why the allegations had taken so long to come to court prosecutor Fern Russell said: "Although it is not the dark ages we are talking about a couple of decades ago.

"Young people are listened to rather differently than they were then."

Jurors also heard yesterday that after Shefford was arrested for the allegations he outright denied any wrong-doing.

The court heard that while he didn't answer all of the questions he made his position clear and said none of the abuse had ever happened.

Shefford denies all the charges and the trial - expected to last up to eight days - continues.