A paedophile postman who used Facebook and Bebo to groom hundreds of children for sex in the UK was jailed for eight-and-a-half years today.
After creating at least eight fake online profiles, Michael Williams, 28, targeted youngsters he met on his post round, on school runs as a taxi driver, and in his role as secretary of a football club.
At an earlier hearing at Truro Court Court, Williams admitted 27 charges of inciting sexual activity, grooming and distributing indecent images.
He also pleaded guilty to voyeurism and possessing indecent images.
Devon and Cornwall Police have identified about 500 victims he groomed or abused but believe there could be up to 1,000 youngsters in total because hundreds are too scared to come forward.
Williams, of Tresooth Lane, Penryn, worked as a postman in his home town, where he was regarded as cheerful and helpful.
He befriended many people on his rounds – including youngsters.
But he would also pursue the children using social networking sites – sometimes using false names and posing as a teenager.
He even dyed his hair different colours to hide his identity.
Many victims were tricked into performing sex acts on a webcam but he convinced others to meet him in parks, on beaches and at his home, where he abused them.
Police found thousands of indecent images on his computer and it is believed he would secretly film children as they undressed on nearby beaches.
Williams’s former employer, Royal Mail, said it suspended him as soon as the police informed it of the investigation. He was dismissed after his arrest in February.
He was also former secretary of Falmouth Town Football Club.
Judge Paul Darlow said Williams' ``deceit and corruption'' had damaged hundreds of children - both boys and girls.
“Every method employed by you was designed to exploit young children by the means you knew would be popular with them – Facebook, Bebo, MSN Messenger,” the judge said.
“You created for yourself completely fictitious profiles posing as the sort of person teenagers might be attracted to this.
“They were lulled into a false sense of security.”
The judge said that Williams also sexually abused teenage girls in his own community.
“The extent of your position as a postman, taxi driver and secretary of a football club gave you access and trust to children living in the local community,” Judge Darlow said.
“The indictment names eight children.
“Unnamed are the anonymous victims of the child pornography you kept.
“Unnamed are the anonymous children named in the Taken Into Account.
“I don’t overlook the corrosive effect your activities have had upon families of the children, the schools they go to and the community where they live.”
A spokeswoman for Facebook said the company had recently launched a £5m campaign to improve safety for its users.
“We are deeply concerned by both the scale of the crimes committed by Michael Williams and his determination to groom young people over such a long period of time both on and offline,” she said.
“This case serves as a painful reminder that everyone must use extreme caution when talking to or meeting people they only know via the internet.
“Those who use the internet to groom young people are tenacious in their efforts and have shown that they will use every online and offline opportunity to make contact.
“Sadly, many of those targeted online do not even realise they are being groomed until it is too late.
“That is precisely why internet services, police, parents and teachers need to come together to create a safety ’net’ for young people that raises awareness of what grooming may look like and how to effectively report it to both authorities and services providers, as well as to create channels for service providers and police to work together to ensure offenders are brought to justice.
“In the case of Michael Williams, we have provided our full co-operation to the police, and immediately disabled his profile when this came to light, and retained data from the profile for their use in the ongoing investigation and prosecution.”