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Undercover reporter snares paedophile ring
An undercover newspaper reporter posed as an 11-year-old girl to uncover a paedophile ring whose members were today sentenced to more than 30 years in prison.
Journalist Ruth Lumley, 26, noticed graffiti urging girls between eight and 13 to text a mobile phone number while she was travelling home from work.
Posing as an 11-year-old girl, Miss Lumley who worked on the Chichester Observer in West Sussex at the time, replied to the advert and was sent a series of increasingly sexually explicit messages from a pay-as-you-go mobile phone.
She alerted police and prompted a complex 10-month nationwide investigation that uncovered “horrific” child abuse on eight victims.
The investigation led police to a gang of four men, all of whom admitted their part in the sick ring.
At Hove Crown Court today, Trevor Haddock, 55, was given six life sentences and will serve a minimum of 12 years in prison; Ian Jones, 43, was sentenced to life with a minimum of 10 years; John Farmer, 68, eight years and Derek Moody, 43, life sentence with a minimum of four years.
Judge Anthony Niblett paid tribute to Ms Lumley saying: “I would particularly like to commend the witness Ruth Lumley. She was the one who spotted the graffiti.
“As a result of her actions the police were able to undertake this investigation.”
It emerged that Haddock charged up to £150 for other men to abuse a young girl he procured. He also plied his victims with sedatives, alcohol, and cigarettes.
It was also revealed that one of the four had previously served time in prison for sexual offences.
Ian Jones received a 42-month sentence for the attempted rape of a 20-year-old woman in Burgess Hill in 1984. He pounced on her on an unlit footpath and dragged her into the bushes after drinking heavily.
Haddock had admitted 14 offences including rape, attempted rape, conspiring to rape and sexual assault.
Jones pleaded guilty to conspiring to sexually assault, attempting to cause or incite a child to engage in sexual activity and four counts of criminal damage with intent to commit a sexual offence.
Farmer had admitted arranging or facilitating the commission of a child sex offence and Moody has admitted inciting to rape a young girl.
Judge Anthony Niblett described the men as “morally abhorrent, wicked and harmful to those they abused”.
He added: “Each of you is a paedophile who poses a continued danger to young children specifically to young girls.”
He said that he was sentencing them to deter and protect vulnerable young children from their predatory activities.
Miss Lumley, now a reporter on the Brighton Argus, was travelling on a train between Chichester and Brighton when she noticed a scrawled message on the toilet door stating ‘Young girls wanted for sex, aged eight to 13. Text this number only’.
She rang the number twice but it was not answered. However, within 30 minutes she received a text from Jones which said: “U male or female how old whr u c my number tx bck only.”
Miss Lumley sent a text message back, saying “Female, on train, 11” and within minutes received the reply “U up 4 it? R U a virgin or not wht skol u go 2 whr u live tx bk.”
Jones then proceeded to send a number of messages to Miss Lumley and when he got no response, he also telephoned her, leaving a voicemail message inviting her to call him, and another text message inciting her to send a naked picture of herself.
Miss Lumley informed British Transport Police who discovered the graffiti on a number of trains which operate in the South-East, as well as in a pub in Euston station, central London.
She said: “It’s not the type of message you normally see on the back of toilet doors. I phoned the number but didn’t get a reply so I just went home and forgot about it.
“About half an hour later I got a message asking me whether I was male or female, how old I was and where I had seen the message.
“I texted back and said I was an 11-year-old girl and that I saw it on the train. I had never seen graffiti like this before and at first I thought it was a sick joke.
“After I sent back the reply, I got sent about five or six text messages which got more and more sexually explicit. They were really disgusting. It was at that point that I knew I had to phone the police.”
Officers seized her mobile phone for analysis over a period of five days during which time more sexually explicit messages were sent.
A British Transport Police officer pretended to be a 12-year-old girl called Amy and arranged to meet a man outside a Burger King in Brighton.
Police were laying in wait and arrested Jones. After officers searched his flat and checked his phone records, they discovered calls to Farmer.
Farmer was arrested when police found child abuse pictures on his phone. Two pictures found on Jones’s phone were taken in his flat and included an image of a third man who Sussex Police later identified as Haddock.
His home was raided and examination of his phone records led to the uncovering of a plan by Haddock to take a young girl to Newcastle so she could be abused by the fourth defendant, Moody, in exchange for cash.
However, police stepped in before the deal was completed.
Ringleader Haddock, of Ambleside, Worcester, admitted 14 offences including rape, attempted rape, conspiring to rape and sexual assault.
Jones, of Rowlands Road, Worthing, West Sussex, admitted conspiring to sexually assault a child, attempting to cause or incite a child to engage in sexual activity and four counts of criminal damage with intent to commit a sexual offence.
Farmer, of Pevensey, near Eastbourne, East Sussex, admitted arranging or facilitating the commission of a child sex offence and Moody, from Newcastle, admitted inciting to rape a young girl.
Judge Niblett sentenced Haddock to six life sentences, and said he would not be eligible for parole until after at least 12 years.
Jones received a life term, with a minimum tariff of 10 years, Farmer was jailed for eight years and Moody was handed a life term with a minimum of four years imprisonment.
After describing the four men as “evil”, Judge Niblett commended Miss Lumley for her “clear-sightedness” and awarded her £250 to be given to her from the High Sheriff of East Sussex.
Following the case, Detective Constable Andy Jackman, of British Transport Police, said: “This has been a very unusual case.
“Investigating graffiti attacks is a regular occurrence for the British Transport Police, but it is certainly very rare that such messages lead to us uncovering a paedophile ring that was actively trying to recruit victims on the train network.
“This case demonstrates the importance of British Transport Police and highlights that through working with our policing partners, and with the help of members of the public, we’ve been able to ensure that these predators can no longer target innocent young girls.
“It goes to show that no matter how innocuous something might seem, like a bit of graffiti, it is important to bring your concerns to the attention of the authorities, because in a case like this we’ve uncovered and put to an end a very serious crime.”
Sussex Police has not been able to trace any victims linked to the messages but they believe they have got everyone involved in the ring.
Acting Detective Chief Inspector Jeff Lister, of Sussex Police, said: “The sentences today have reflected the serious and horrific nature of the sexual offences committed by these men and the damage they have caused to their young victims.
“These men pose a serious risk to young children and when they are eventually released they will be on the Sex Offenders’ Register for life.
“This investigation started following inquiries by British Transport Police into obscene graffiti on trains.
“The investigation quickly focused on the protection of young children and considerable amount of time was spent on trying to identify if any youngsters were abused as a result of these messages.
“We can say that we have not identified any children who responded to the graffiti and were sexually abused.”
He added: “These victims are now being given the appropriate support but they have undoubtedly had their childhoods taken away from them.”