A paedophile teacher who raped an 11-year-old girl on a church floor in the 70s has been jailed for a string of historic sex offences.

Pervert Bernard Haunch, of Marlins Close in Sutton, now 72, was jailed for life with a minimum term of 20 years in prison at Lewes Crown Court on Tuesday after being found guilty of nine sexual assaults, comprising four rapes, two offences of buggery and three indecent assaults on a girl then aged between seven and 11 years old between 1975 and 1979.

He was also convicted of an indecent assault on a boy aged between seven and 11 years old having previously pleaded guilty to two other indecent assaults on the same boy, all between 1980 and 1983.

All the assaults took place while Haunch was a French teacher at the now-closed Fonthill Preparatory School in Coombe Hill Road, East Grinstead, Sussex.

Haunch was arrested and charged in July last year. The investigation started last year when the girl, now in her early 40s and not living in Sussex, came forward for the first time to tell police about her ordeal at the hands of Haunch. On his arrest he assumed the allegations concerned his offences against the boy, who detectives then traced.

Among his offences, Haunch arranged and took part in a gang rape on the girl on the floor of the school's consecrated chapel. He was also a member of a group called the Paedophile Information Exchange but apparently claimed it was a discussion group.

Detective Constable Dani Flude of the West Sussex police child protection team, said: "Both victims suffered in silence at the hands of this systematic abuser, who took advantage of his status to subject them each to years of abuse. They have both been very brave in supporting this prosecution, and in giving evidence as a result of which this man was finally brought to justice.

"Although every case is assessed on its individual merits, we will always follow up allegations of sexual abuse of children regardless of how long ago they are said to have happened. Anyone who wants to report alleged offending of this type can always contact us at any time via 101 and talk in confidence to specially trained detectives."