A VILE predator has been locked up for 18 years for raping three children.

Dean Hilton confessed to carrying out a huge campaign of abuse totalling 24 charges, including three for raping a child.

The 45-year-old’s horrific crimes date back almost ten years, and all involve young girls under 12.

The paedophile, from Canvey, appeared at Basildon Crown Court on Friday, where he remained emotionless in the dock as families of the victims were in tears in the public gallery.

The court heard how Hilton would get the youngsters to perform sex acts with him.

He would also continually rape them.

At one point, to try and stop him from abusing her, one of his victim poured a glass of water over him.

Last year, one of his victims set up a camera to catch him in the act.

The camera recorded a rape - and the footage was passed to the police.

Anthony Abell, mitigating for Hilton, said: “He really is sorry, and he wants to apologise to those children.

“He is very ashamed of himself.

“He wants to seek guidance in prison to understand why he has offended the way he has.

“He wants to get to root cause of what happened.”

Addressing Hilton in court, Judge Samantha Leigh said: “Your victims have suffered greatly since the abuse.

“Their mothers have spoken on their behalf, one says it is like a light switch has been flicked off inside her.

“One of your victims threw water onto you to stop the abuse.

“One girl managed to hide a camera showing you abusing a victim, in which she showed incredible strength and bravery that led to you being discovered.

“Two have been dealing with the effects of your campaign of abuse, and it is my hope somehow they can find a way to move on and not let your vile actions take a hold of the rest of their lives.”

Hilton received a total of 18 years and eight months for the 24 crimes, with at least five years on licence.

Detective Constable Louise Poole said: “I want to take the time to praise the courage of the victims in coming forward to report these vile offences.

“Hopefully, this sentence encourages other victims to come forward and feel able to report any abuse they may be suffering, or may have suffered.”