He would often come to her sister's bed when they stayed at Nan's house.
Silently fumbling, groping and grabbing until he'd located his victim - a frightened, frozen little girl, just 4 years of age.
Alexandra Tapp, a delightful blonde-haired child who loved animals and didn't like getting in trouble with grown-ups.
Holding and hurting her in the shadowy presence of her younger sister Virginia.
The sexual assault by their step-grandfather went on for several years at his farm near Narrabri, NSW.
Later Alex would find ways to evade him, always taking her younger sister with her.
Always keeping the shameful secret of a vile crime she could not possibly name.
Until the day he turned his attention on Virginia.
This time it was in the kitchen of the farmhouse when he sat the younger sister on his knee and masturbated her.
Their grandmother discovered him and slapped his hand away.
"I didn't know what was going on," Virginia recalls.
But she confided in her sister, "Grand-dad is touching my private parts", and Alex went straight to their mum.
"It wasn't until it happened to me that she said something ... she was so brave," Virginia Tapscott recalls sadly.
"It was so hard for her because she was the type of kid who didn't want to upset anyone.
"I was believed and Mum went straight to the farm and confronted him; she did her best to act on the situation and we were never exposed to that again."
In a small, rural community and with this upstanding family being what it was, the matter was swept under the carpet - it wouldn't have been seemly to go to the authorities.
A different time, a different place ... where these unpleasant things are spoken of in hushed tones and hastily relegated to a dark, distant recess.
Too young to remember; best left alone, well-meaning adults assured themselves.
Two little girls left with twisted memories and trauma's slow torture.
One sister dead.
Robbed of her innocence and her life.
"She hung on and hung on," Virginia says grimly.
"But it wasn't the answer - we can't carry our secrets alone."
Alex, 33, died in a motel room on June 18 this year.
Accidental drug overdose was the coroner's finding.
The talented equine vet had been secretly using opioids at "dangerous levels" on and off for years, her sister reveals.
The profession "that gave her so much fulfillment" also gave her access to the drugs that would kill her.
"In my heart I think it was an accident," Virginia says.
"She was just trying to make the pain stop."
In a heartbreaking twist of fate, Alex would have been offered a job with a Newcastle equine practice the next day.
"It's a real kick in the guts that luck didn't go her way," Virginia says.
"A millimetre either way (and) she could have got the job and got cleaned up."
But the stain of a secret guarded for decades was to render Alex a carbon copy of what she could have been.
On the surface, a bright, beautiful woman working hard to succeed, who had a natural affinity with horses and fierce love for her nieces and nephew.
But Alex worked just as hard at a carefully constructed persona she wore like armour to protect herself.
"Alex's way of dealing with it was she kept people at arm's length," Virginia says.
"It was her best way to cope, to keep going."
Romantic relationships were fraught with fear and deep distrust.
Horrifyingly Alex was the victim of an unrelated rape when she was a teenager.
"Her abuse rendered her unable to trust," Virginia explains.
"Abusive men stole her enjoyment of the romance of relationships; such a formative, destructive force."
Inseparable growing up, the sisters shared a close bond riding horses on the family farm and playing video games together.
Inevitably their relationship, too, became fractured.
Alex had been working as a vet in the UK when COVID-19 struck and she returned home to Australia.
After two weeks in quarantine, she went to stay with Virginia, her husband Rhys, and their children Oscar, 4, Elke, 2, and Eva, 9 months, at their Bowna home.
"We were all really excited," Virginia says.
"I thought it would be great to re-connect and it was a beautiful time in many ways ...
"But it was hard to be close to her in the end."
Alex continued to keep her issues - and substance abuse - well-hidden.
Haltingly, and in a voice jagged with tears, Virginia struggles to recall the best bits of the time Alex spent with them before she died.
Instead she describes roller-coaster years where she and their mother Lynne would confront Alex about her drug use and ask her to go to rehab, something she resisted because she feared being de-registered.
In 2016, Alex had suffered a non-fatal overdose.
More recently she admitted to thoughts of suicide.
"But then everything would settle down as it always did with her," Virginia says.
"She would tell us she was seeing a new psychiatrist or had a new dosage for her anti-depressants.
"Mum and I always told Alex we loved and supported her (but) short of physically forcing her, until someone decides for themselves to get help, the issues can't truly be resolved."
Before she left for her job trial, Alex cleaned out her sister's medicine cupboard of opioids.
Virginia didn't realise until she'd left and alerted Lynne, who had offered to accompany her troubled daughter to Newcastle.
It wasn't until it happened to me that she said something ... she was so brave.Virginia Tapscott
Alex messaged her sister that week; things were great and she was enjoying her time there.
"She loved chilli and she told me she could grow chillis all year 'round at Newcastle," Virginia recalls.
Alex's death came as an earth-shattering shock.
"When you lose someone like this you feel helpless, like you have lost everything," Virginia says.
Then came the anger - "the compulsion to stand up for her now she's gone".
Virginia vowed she would no longer keep the secret that protected a man (now dead) who created a lifetime of trauma for two little girls.
She put together the pieces of her own repressed memory of abuse through Alex some years before.
"I knew if I went public and stopped keeping the secret that protects men like this I would expose her as a victim too," Virginia explains.
"She was not ready to face the discomfort of letting other people see her pain."
After Alex died, Virginia very publicly broke the silence.
"Some people don't want me to talk; they say it's sullying her memory," she says.
"But I think it raises her up; so much was taken from her and yet she was still able to achieve so much."
Virginia believes if more survivors can be supported to safely disclose abuse, perpetrators can no longer rely on the silence of victims to protect their crimes.
"People do think rape and sexual abuse is disgusting," she says.
"We need to hold these abusers accountable while our law enforcement and judicial systems work out how to protect us.
"My mum has been incredible; she's been a victim of these people too, in a way."
After 24 years of feeling alone, Virginia is being inundated by people sharing their own, awful stories.
She says it's "sickeningly" prevalent.
Our Watch, an organisation to prevent violence against women and children, reports one in five women in Australia experience sexual violence after the age of 15.
Even now, even after going public in a bid to help others, Virginia admits it's hard to "pluck up the courage" to speak those words.
"It's embarrassing; even now I feel gross," she confesses quietly as her children play noisily in the background.
"(But) people should understand the sexual acts performed on us to violate us otherwise we don't confront the true horror of what happened.
"It's the most disgusting abuse of power."
A memory surfaces of the sisters' last days together.
"Alex took the kids out to the cubby and they drew all over it with coloured chalk so it looked like a gingerbread house," Virginia recalls.
"She wrote her initials on the wall and the first time I saw it after she died it felt like I couldn't breathe."
If there's any comfort to be found after Alex's death, it's in the clarity of knowing they were not to blame.
"It's not my shame, it's not her shame," Virginia says.
- If you need support, call 1800RESPECT (24 hours).
Support from far and wide to honour sister's memory
Virginia Tapscott has been overwhelmed by the love and support shown from close-knit rural communities to honour the memory of her sister Alexandra Tapp.
At the end of August, the Corrigan family of Rennylea Angus donated a bull for auction with the proceeds donated to Our Watch.
Kate McDonald was to buy Lot 21 for $15,000 and auctioneers Nutrien added $5000 to the kitty in a wonderful show of support for the heart-broken family and an organisation that works to protect women and children from violence.
Virginia's husband Rhys works at Rennylea and Lucinda Corrigan said her family had felt very strongly that they wanted to do something to help.
"We met Alexandra when she came out to visit her sister here in May and we were really moved by the pain of her loss," Lucinda recalls.
"A beautiful young woman, just 33, no longer here.
"There should not have been that level of crime that this happens; we want to acknowledge that sexual abuse is a real problem.
"People were inspired by bravery of the story and were very keen to support the charity auction."
Virginia says she hopes the support she has received sends a message to other survivors that they can come forward to safely tell their story.
She will continue to campaign for social change to address the devastating and long-lasting impact of sexual abuse and assault on the community.