Child abuser groomed hundreds online

BRITAIN’S worst internet child sex abuser was jailed for eight-and-a-half years yesterday.

Michael Williams, 29, a postman, used Facebook and Bebo to groom hundreds of children for sex.

After creating at least eight fake online profiles, he 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 identified about 500 victims he groomed or abused but believe there could be up to 1,000 because hundreds are too scared to come forward.

Williams, of Tresooth Lane, Penryn, worked as a postman in his home town. He befriended many people on his rounds, including youngsters. But he would also pursue the children using social networking sites, sometimes posing as a teenager. He even dyed his hair 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.

The Royal Mail said it suspended him as soon as the police informed it of the investigation. He was dismissed after his arrest in February.

A spokeswoman for Facebook said the company had recently launched a £5 million (€6m) campaign to improve safety for users. “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.

“Sadly, many of those targeted online do not even realise they are being groomed until it is too late,” he said.

Andrew Macfarlane, prosecuting, told Truro Crown Court that Williams posed online as a 15-year-old girl called “Gorgeous Charlie” and a boy of the same age called James to snare his victims.

The court heard that one of Williams’s victims – a 15-year-old girl – contacted police after finding disturbing child pornography on his computer.

“She was horrified to see the indecent images, so much so she was physically sick,” Macfarlane said.

Macfarlane warned of the dangers the internet posed to children.

“It is ironic that in this day and age, many parents don’t let their children out at night lest they meet someone like the defendant.

“Instead, they feel they are safe in their bedroom but unknown to the parents some children were meeting the defendant using their computers.”

Mike Melville-Shreeve, defending, said a psychiatric report revealed Williams believed he was a teenager and that he was acting out on the internet the relationships other teenagers would have on the internet.

Judge Paul Darlow also placed Williams on the sex offenders’ register for life and made him subject of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order.


Lifestyle

For the interiors lover who can’t resist a New Year’s revamp or a simple freshening up, there are plenty of new books on the shelves to inspire, writes Carol O’CallaghanFour new books to inspire your interiors renovation

Helen O’Callaghan hears about awards for global changeGOAL Changemakers Award: Primary schools asked for views

More From The Irish Examiner