U.K. Gang Found Guilty of Raping Babies*
By Nadine Osman
A gang of white paedophiles who raped and abused babies and children under the age of five in attacks that were streamed over the internet are facing lengthy prison sentences after being found guilty.
The gang of seven white men aged between 30 and 51 habitually targeted children in Yorkshire, the South East, and the South West. They faced more than 30 charges, including the rape of a child, conspiracy to rape a child, sexual activity with a child and administering a substance with intent against three victims – a baby, a toddler and a pre-school age child.
The shocking details were reported in full for the first time after the last of the trials ended on April 22 at Bristol Crown Court. They preyed on the families of the children they targeted, in one case grooming a couple before their baby was born.
Members would often travel long distances to carry out the attacks together or watch the abuse over the internet if only one had access to a victim.
Online chat revealed that the gang would offer advice and guidance to others on drugging their victims. John Denham, 49, from Wiltshire, and Matthew Stansfield, 34, from Hampshire were found guilty earlier last month.
Robin Hollyson, 30, from Bedfordshire; Christopher Knight, 35, from Manchester; Adam Toms, 33, from Somerset; David Harsley, 51, from Humberside and Matthew Lisk, 32, from East Sussex – had earlier pleaded guilty to the charges they faced. They all face significant prison sentences and some could be jailed for life when they return to court on a date to be fixed. Investigators believe there are other victims.
Police described the men as “monsters in disguise”, working together to commit some of the most “vile and depraved’ child sex offences the authorities have ever seen. The NCA, which led the investigation, said the perverts met after discussing their sexual interests in young children on legitimate social media and adult sex sites. The gang was described as “incredibly skilled” at grooming victims’ families, even striking up relationships with pregnant women to abuse their babies. Deputy Director of Investigations at the NCA, Graham Gardner, said the ring ‘has got tentacles that go round the world’.
The men, who did not know each other outside of their involvement in the abuse, led respectable lives – including a married former actor and a businessman – and concealed their activities from the outside world until they were unmasked. Gardner said:
“They don’t stand out as monsters, but they are monsters in disguise. We rarely see criminal behaviour involving the sexual abuse of children to this degree.
“This is serious organised crime at its worst. The men involved in this group actively targeted families to facilitate the sexual abuse of their children, toddlers and babies. The depravity of these men appeared to know no bounds and is without doubt as vile as we have seen.”
The NCA launched its investigation, last September after Toms contacted police and admitted he had abused a child.
Their inquiries led to the unmasking of the ring operating across the UK, which had links to other paedophiles across the world.
In the weeks that followed, the other six members were arrested and a further two victims were identified. Another 21 children have been the subject of safeguarding measures in relation to the investigation.
The NCA has worked closely with the Avon and Somerset, Bedfordshire, Greater Manchester, Hampshire, Humberside, Wiltshire and Sussex forces, as well as the Crown Prosecution Service and nine local authorities.
Police combed the suspects’ electronic communications and established that contact between them began on adult online sex forums, which are publicly accessible and legal to use.
Investigators recovered Skype chat logs that recorded conversations between the men, which were described as “disgusting” and “abhorrent” by police.