August 2000

Sex offender goes underground after riot

Evil Burnett (pictured) — who has spent 14 years inside for sex offences — was convicted in 1989 of being in a gang that abused 140 children

POLICE said last night that they no longer knew the whereabouts of one of Britain’s most notorious paedophiles, who vanished shortly before a riot outside his flat on Thursday.

Victor Burnett, 53, from Acton, West London became a central figure in the “naming and shaming” controversy after the News of the World printed his picture and said he was responsible for sexual offences against more than 100 young boys.

He disappeared from the flat on the Paulsgrove estate, a few miles north of Portsmouth city centre, about 15 minutes before a demonstration by residents went out of control. A policeman was hit in the face with a brick, cars were damaged and windows smashed. The flat was ransacked.

Hampshire police originally said that Burnett, a member of a four-man gang sentenced to long prison terms in 1989 for offences against boys aged 11 or younger, had been moved to another part of the country. Last night it became clear that no one knew where he had gone. “It is what we had always feared about the ‘naming and shaming’ campaign,” said a police officer yesterday. “Until Thursday night, we knew exactly where Burnett was and what he was up to. Now he has gone underground.”

Police said the violent reaction on the estate to Burnett’s presence was “wholly unacceptable”. Some residents defended their behaviour. One mother said: “We don’t need scum like that living amongst us. I have a son of 10 who walked past his flat every day. I should have been told that this pervert was living here, but none of us knew. Things got out of hand and they shouldn’t have done. But at least we got rid of him.”

Burnett, a former taxi driver from London, has lived quietly in Paulsgrove 200 yards from a primary school for two years and is not known to have committed any offences against children since his release from prison in 1996. His role in one of the worst paedophile gangs to appear in a British court has inflamed passions since the newspaper revealed his presence.

When he was sentenced to nine years in prison for offences possibly involving more than 100 boys, Judge Henry Pownall said Burnett and three co-defendants had carried out “unspeakable, wholesale corruption of young boys”. The three-month trial was told that the gang had picked up the boys, many with learning difficulties, and turned them into sexual playthings.

Burnett, who had 14 previous convictions for sex offences, was sentenced to nine years for conspiracy to commit buggery. The judge told him: “Your record is the worst of all and I am of the view that you are a positive danger to young people.” As details of Burnett’s past were revealed, feelings on the Paulsgrove estate became inflamed.

Leading up to the riot, about 50 people, mainly mothers increasingly distressed about Burnett’s presence discussed in the shops along Allaways Avenue near the flat, began a demonstration. They chanted and had placards demanding he move. Word of the demonstration spread, mainly by mobile phone, and young men and women, including teenagers, arrived at the scene. Seventy police, some in riot gear, were deployed to control the mob, estimated to number between 100 and 150.

Hampshire police yesterday pledged to bring those responsible to justice. “We cannot let people get away with taking the law into their own hands,” said Deputy Chief Constable Ian Redhead. The situation was now much worse. Burnett was not on the Sex Offenders’ Register, but Supt Bob Golding said his activities were being monitored. “There was no need for the actions that took place last night.”

August 1996


Victor Burnett looks out over the park with a practised eye.

It’s empty now, but usually it’s like any one of a thousand parks in Britain – full of children on the long days and warm summer evenings of the school holidays.

To them, it’s a playground. To Burnett, a 50-year-old convicted paedophile who spent six years in jail for child sex abuse, it’s a self-service meat market where the only price that’s paid is in the ruined lives of his innocent young victims.

Parents of the children there will have told them to be careful, to be home by nightfall…and never, never, to talk to strangers.

But the grim and chilling fact is that, by the time he strikes, to those children Burnett is no longer a stranger.

He says: “No child is safe. I could go out now and get one if I wanted.

“The only way parents can totally protect their children is to keep them in at all times.

“For instance, I used to be mad keen on CB radios. I had one fitted in my old Datsun car and another in my home.

“I used to sit outside the flats where I lived, talking to people on the CB.

“Within 10 minutes, a child came up and wanted to know how it worked and whether he could have a go. I invited him into the car, and while we were playing I gently coaxed the conversation around to sex.

“He became more and more excited and let me touch him right there in the car in the street.

“That was the start. I abused him for four years. He was only 11 when we met.

“Children of a certain age have primitive urges to experiment with sex. It is nature.

“Parents can tell them not to talk to strangers, but it is like telling them to stay away from fire – they only learn when they are burned.

“They will always sneak behind the bike-sheds for a smoke or sex.

“I targeted boys aged 11 or 12. That is the age when they are most vulnerable to men like me.

“They want to know about sex, they are confused.

“Once they realise they can take part, they want to try it out. And then they come back again and again. I was having sex with under-age boys as soon as I left school at 15.

“It was not premeditated. I was an opportunist, if you like.

“I would be talking to a child, and before I knew what was happening, I was falling into bed with them.

“I can honestly say that I have lost count of how many boys I have had sex with.

“When I was 19, I had a pushbike which I rode in the park.

“I used to see another boy aged about 12 who was often there, and we became friends. Over time, I became more and more flirtatious.

“In the end it was him who said he wanted to touch me. Again, I had found a victim.

“For a while, I deliberately targeted one-parent families. It was easier.

“I would get friendly with the parent, and in no time they would ask me to take their child out, or to baby-sit. From then on, it was easy.”

Burnett emphasises his belief that there is nothing, nothing at all, that parents can do to thwart a determined child molester.

“Paedophiles will always be one step ahead,” he says. “And children have an in-built guilt complex which makes them automatically believe that they are to blame.”

Burnett himself was eight years old when a priest at his boarding school led him into an empty dormitory and forced him into sex.

“After that,” he says, “sex was available throughout the rest of my time there.

“As I grew into my teens, my tastes changed, and I began seeking younger and younger children.

“I was driven by lust and the thought of their bodies and their innocence.”

When the police caught up with him, Burnett served six years in jail for conspiracy to commit buggery.

During two years as a low-security category C inmate at Maidstone jail he volunteered for therapy.

He says he learned that what he did was evil, but the lust never goes away.

“The temptation never leaves you. It is like a drug. The only way to cope is to deny yourself. Total abstention is the only way.

“I won’t even allow myself to look out of my front window in case I see a young boy I fancy and try it on.”