An ex-soldier who raped and sexually abused several women and girls in a 45-year campaign of terror has died after catching Covid in prison.

Dennis Smalley, from Wigan, was jailed for 25 years in March 2016 for raping seven women and teenagers and sexually abusing four other girls.

At the time of his sentencing, a judge told him that he had made his wicked abuse his ‘life’s work’, with his crimes dating back as far as the 1970s.

He raped and sexually abused one victim for more than a decade, while he attacked another woman shortly after she had given birth.

He was found guilty of 25 rapes, 16 counts of indecent assault or indecency with a child, two serious sexual offences and occasioning actual bodily harm, Manchester Evening News reports.

Now it has been revealed that Smalley died in hospital of Covid pneumonia on March 16 while he was a prisoner at HMP Wakefield, aged 70.

A report by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, which carries out independent investigations into complaints and deaths in custody, was published on Monday.

General view of Wakefield Prison. 14 November 2017. Charles Bronson is set to marry former Emmerdale star Paula Williamson. Bronson ? who is now known as Charles Salvador ? is due to get married to fiancee Paula Williamson in an intimate ceremony at HMP Wakefield.
Smalley caught Covid-19 inside the high security HMP Wakefield, a report has revealed (Picture: SWNS)

It said Smalley had not left Wakefield in the weeks before he became ill, adding ‘it appears, therefore, that he caught Covid-19 in prison’.

But the reports adds that investigators were satisfied the prison had ‘appropriate policies and procedures in place and had taken reasonable steps to manage the risk to prisoners, including Mr Smalley, of being infected’.

It says Smalley followed advice from prison staff to shield during the pandemic and that he had his first Covid jab on February 25 this year.

However he tested positive for the virus on March 2, and was taken to hospital nine days later as his health deteriorated, before his eventual death.

The report adds: “The clinical reviewer concluded that Mr Smalley’s clinical care at Wakefield was of a good standard and equivalent to that which he could have expected in the community.”

Speaking after his sentencing, Detective Constable Claire Hughes told of the ‘trail of destruction’ left behind by Smalley.

She said: “I have had the displeasure of dealing with some truly repugnant individuals during my time with Greater Manchester Police, but Dennis Smalley is without doubt one of the worst I have ever encountered.

“He is a man seemingly incapable of inflicting anything other than misery upon the unfortunate women and girls he encountered during his life.

“The trail of destruction this man wreaked through the lives of so many young girls and women is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to repair.

“But I hope that in some way they can take some solace from the fact that this monster is now behind bars for the rest of his life.”