An 80-year-old former steelworker will likely die in jail after failing to win a reduction in his minimum 18-year jail sentence for the horrific and degrading sexual abuse of four young nieces stemming back more than 50 years.
A NSW District Court jury took less than five hours to find Maximo Cabezuela guilty of 27 counts of historic sexual abuse following a lengthy trial in April 2018.
The court heard Cabezuela's abuse of the girls began in 1966, just months after he immigrated to Australia from Europe to take up a job at the Port Kembla steelworks.
He moved in with his sister, brother-in-law and their multiple children, including three of the victims (the fourth was not yet born).
The man abused the girls multiple times a week for the next four years. The youngest was aged just three when she was anally raped by her uncle. He told her at the time "shush or I will tell them how bad you've been".
Cabezuela moved interstate in 1970 for work but maintained contact with the family and moved back in with them when he returned to the Illawarra in 1973. By this time his sister had given birth to a fourth daughter.
The abuse of the girls then restarted, this time excluding the eldest girl but including the youngest daughter, aged five.
Cabezuela stopped abusing the girls as soon as they each got their period, with the final assaults taking place in 1981.
The court heard the victims were aged between 3 and 13 at the time of the abuse and Cabezuela was aged 27 to 42.
The family claims they confronted Cabezuela in 1987, at which time he said "that happened 20 or 25 years ago, you should have forgotten about it now, it's in the past". They have had no contact with him since.
The matter was not reported to police until 2016, prompting Cabezuela's arrest.
He denied the charges and pleaded not guilty at his trial, but jurors found him guilty of each of the offences.
In sentencing Cabezuela, Judge Sarah Huggett's actions against his nieces had been "deliberate, determined and...premeditated" and involved various methods of coercion and manipulation to both commit the offences and prevent the girls from speaking of them to anyone.
She described the acts as humiliating, demeaning and degrading for the girls and found Cabezuela remained oblivious of the harm he had caused them.
She sentenced Cabezuela to 28 years' jail, with a non-parole period of 18 years.
However, Cabezuela took his case to the Court of Criminal Appeal earlier this month, with his legal team presenting three grounds of appeal.
The first, they said, was that Cabezuela had been wrongly convicted because of an error by the trial judge in dismissing a juror.
In the case that the guilty verdicts were not overturned, Cabezeula's legal team said his sentence had been "manifestly excessive" because of his advanced age, poor health - he suffers from chronic heart and renal failure and diabetes - and lack of prior criminal record.
Finally, they claimed his sentence should be reduced because he would be vulnerable if the COVID-29 pandemic spread through the prison system.
However, a bench of three judges dismissed Cabezuela's appeal in its entirety, finding there had been no error by the trial judge and the sentence imposed on Cabezuela was not excessive given the "objective gravity of the offences...[and] the absence of remorse".
Cabezuela will be 96 if he lives to see his non-parole period expire.