THE victims of a depraved sex beast who raped three schoolgirls have been praised for helping to bring him to justice.

William Wingate, 58, was also found guilty at the High Court in Glasgow of sexually abusing another two girls.

His rein of terror took place over a 12-year period between 1986 and 1998 in Johnstone, Paisley, Greenock and Glasgow.

Wingate, who now lives in Lockerbie, raped his first victim in a house in Paisley when she was eight, but began sexually abusing her when she was just six.

He raped his second victim on various occasions when she was aged between eight and 11.

The offences were committed at houses in Paisley and at a wooded area known locally as ‘The Privvies.’

Wingate raped his third victim when she was aged between 12 and 15 at a house in Glasgow, a house in Johnstone, and in a car in various roads in Paisley, Johnstone and Glasgow.

Wingate denied all the charges against him and branded his victims “liars” and claimed they were making it all up for money.

Advocate depute Steven Borthwick told the court after the verdicts were given that Wingate had served four years for rape after being convicted in 1981.

He also has a lengthy record for drugs offences, breach of the peace and violence.

Detective Inspector Louise Harvie, from the Public Protection Unit based in Renfrew, praised Wingate’s courageous victims.

She told The Gazette: “William Wingate is behind bars as a direct result of the bravery of his victims who stood up in court and relived the harrowing details of the abuse they suffered as children.

“The experiences these young girls were subjected to will no doubt have had a lasting impact on their lives and I hope the knowledge that their tormentor is finally facing justice provides some comfort to them.

“William Wingate was an opportunistic predator who abused the trust of his victims’ families to carry out the most unforgivable acts.

“Today’s outcome sends a clear message to perpetrators who prey on young children – no matter how much time has passed – that you will never be safe from justice.

“Our specialised officers will work to identify your victims and offer them the support to speak up and close the door on your despicable crimes.”

Judge Lord Beckett placed Wingate on the Sex Offenders’ Register, deferred sentence for background reports and remanded him in custody.

Wingate – who was cleared of a charge of supplying cannabis on a cycle path next to the Royal Alexandra Hospital, in Paisley, between May 1995 and May 1996 – will be sentenced in Edinburgh on October 31. Defence counsel Louise Arrol will give her plea in mitigation then.