September 2010

Paedophile postman groomed up to 1000 children on Facebook and Bebo using fake profiles

A postman who used social networking sites to groom up to 1,000 children – some of whom he sexually abused – was jailed for eight-and-a-half years yesterday.

Michael Williams, 28, used different profiles to target children he met on his post round, while doing school runs as taxi driver, and as the secretary of a football club.

He tricked his victims into performing sex acts on a webcam or to meet him in parks, beaches and at his home in Penryn, Cornwall, where he abused them. 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.

Police say Williams dyed his hair different colours and adopted various hairstyles to set up a series of Facebook profiles – pretending to be teenage boys and a girl called ‘Gorgeous Charlie’ to meet children aged 11 to 16. 

On his own Facebook page he posted images of himself as a youngster meeting Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and players including Ryan Giggs and Peter Schmeichel. Police say Williams – who used Facebook, Bebo and MSN Messenger to chat to several victims at once – is a ‘fantasist’ who kept newspaper cuttings about Ian Huntley.

In April, Williams admitted 27 specimen charges, including three counts of grooming, eight of sexual activity with a child and 13 of inciting children to engage in sexual activity.  He also asked for 460 other offences to be taken into consideration, including voyeurism, sexual assault and child porn.

Police have identified around 500 victims he groomed or abused but believe there could be up to 1,000 in total because hundreds are too scared to come forward.

Officers say many of the incidents could have been avoided if Facebook had installed a ‘panic button’ which would allow youngsters to alert authorities if they thought they were being groomed.  Facebook has recently announced it will allow a panic button application which will report suspected abuse to the UK Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.

Jailing Williams yesterday at Truro Crown Court, Judge Paul Darlow said: ‘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. ‘You created completely fictitious profiles posing as the sort of person teenagers might be attracted to. They were lulled into a false sense of security.’ 

Williams began his internet offending in 2005 when he started to groom youngsters he met during his postal rounds, taxi routes and at Falmouth Town Football Club. He was working at the club as a secretary and set up video cameras in the showers where he filmed adults aged 18 to 25. Williams, a bisexual, was arrested in November 2009 when various children came forward to police saying they had been assaulted.

Police searched his flat and found 1,342 indecent images of children, 20 videos featuring children he met on the internet and 800 ‘chat logs’. 

Detective Inspector Simon Snell, who led the investigation, said: ‘The children who have been tricked into having sexual activity with this man are horrified and distraught. But some simple safety procedures could have stopped him.’

A Facebook spokesman 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.’