A "VERY successful and manipulative" criminal used his standing in the community to go undetected as a child rapist for a decade - despite having previously been reported to the police and child social services.

Reports made in 2011 flagged concerns about Peter Daniels to the authorities, and could have prevented some of his young victims from the ordeal they later faced, had evidence of his offending been uncovered at the time.

READ MORE: He was jailed today for 78 counts of child sex abuse. >>>

Detective Sergeant Eirin Martin of Wiltshire Police said: "This offending went on for ten years so through that time he managed to create links with families within different areas of our community, and through those links created further and further links with other families.

"He became this pillar of the community that helped and supported children, and little did we know actually he was abusing the children in his care."

But concerns had been raised about Daniels' involvement with his victims, including by staff at a Salisbury school where Daniels became known as "Uncle Peter", almost at the beginning of his crimes.

The Journal understands the staff were told that police were monitoring Daniels' behaviour.

DS Martin initially said before today's sentencing that this was not the case: "Daniels was not known to us in relation to any abuse of children prior to the report in 2017.

On further questioning she added: "He had come to notice on a couple of occasions which were investigated at the time and no evidence was found, and therefore no further investigation was completed."

Social services were also notified of concerns about Daniels' interest in the children who were regularly in his care.

Wiltshire Council's head of service support and safeguarding Jen Salter said: "We’ve investigated all concerns that have come to us about Daniels, and that had not resulted in evidence previously that he had abused children."

But Daniels' offending did come to light in July 2017, when one of his victims - then 15 - flagged concerns that she may have been abused.

The digital media uncovered at Daniels' home in the ensuing investigation revealed the scale of his offending, but without it many of his victims would never have been discovered.

READ: How Wiltshire Police snared Daniels using videos of his own creation >>>

Ms Salter said the level of Daniels' manipulation of his young victims meant in many cases they were not aware that what was happening to them was abuse.

And she said the same manipulation was applied to the victims' families.

"Perpetrators usually choose their victims strategically," she explained. "It is easier to abuse more vulnerable families because their resilience is not as great."

And speaking on behalf of the Crown Prosecution Service, Claire Booth said Daniels' attitude showed how sure he was that the children he abused would never report him.

"It’s not unusual for offenders to record themselves, however not many do because obviously it’s fairly incriminating," she said.

"I think it demonstrates his arrogance - that he was so confident that he would not be exposed, and that the victims wouldn’t speak out."

And many have since described him as a Jekyll and Hyde character Ms Booth said: "He was, on the face of it, a respected member of the community. He was clearly able to ingratiate himself with a number of families.

"Mr Daniels in the community was regarded almost as an uncle to these children – a loving, caring uncle, who looked after them, treated them with kindness and love, treated them to days out and gifts and made them feel special.

"The Mr Daniels in the police interview appeared to be a calculating, cold man. He seemed to have very little appreciation for how his offending could have in any way impacted on these children, and on their emotional and physical wellbeing."

A Wiltshire Police spokesman said: “Daniels had come to police attention previously. In 2011, a concern was raised about Daniels and a number of people, including children, were spoken to by police. This was fully investigated, but no reports of abuse were disclosed to officers and no evidence of any wrongdoing was found.

“Prior to 2017 Daniels had not been arrested and had no previous convictions.”

If you have any concerns or suspect a young person is a victim or is at risk of child sexual exploitation you can contact Wiltshire Police on 101, or 999 in an emergency, or the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000, help@nspcc.org.uk or report a concern online.