Facebook trio admit child abuse 'depravity'

A nursery worker and two other paedophiles she met on Facebook admitted a horrifying catalogue of child abuse "depravity" today.

Vanessa George, 39, Angela Allen, 39, and Colin Blanchard, 38, pleaded guilty to a string of offences of assault and swapping indecent images.

The public gallery at Bristol Crown Court was packed with around 30 emotional parents who wept as the guilty pleas were entered. One man pointed aggressively towards Blanchard and was asked to calm himself by the usher.



George, who worked at Little Ted's Day Care Unit in her home city of Plymouth, appeared alongside Allen, from Nottingham, and Blanchard, from Smallbridge, Greater Manchester.



George, wearing a black T-shirt and black trousers, hung her head as she admitted seven sexual assaults on children and six counts of distributing and making indecent pictures of children.



Blanchard, dressed in a blue sweater and Nike tracksuit, showed no emotion as he pleaded guilty to 17 child pornography counts and two sexual assaults on children. He also admitted a further charge of possessing extreme pornography.



It can be reported today for the first time that Blanchard, who was caught when a colleague found some of the images on a computer, had been on the sex offenders register before after receiving a police caution for a previous offence.



Allen, wearing two-tone jeans and a blue jumper, wept as she pleaded guilty to four child sex assaults and one count of distributing an indecent image.



George denied one sex assault, which was ordered by the judge to lie on file.



Police believe the abuse began in September last year and carried on until this June.



The trio subjected their young victims to humiliating sexual abuse involving plastic golf clubs, sex toys and toothbrushes.



They recorded the abuse on their mobiles and then swapped the pictures via email using unprotected accounts, including MSN Hotmail.



But they never met in person.



George was arrested at her home in Douglass Road, Plymouth, just after midnight on June 8.



Her arrest sparked public outrage and there were angry scenes at her first appearance at Plymouth Magistrates' Court.



She was held following the arrest of Blanchard, who was caught by police at Manchester Airport after a colleague found obscene pictures on a work computer.



Greater Manchester Police identified George after examination of indecent images found on Blanchard's computer and passed the information on to Devon and Cornwall Police.



Following further examination of Blanchard's computers, Allen was identified and arrested later in June at her home.



As the investigation continued, police discovered the trio had exchanged thousands of texts and dozens of emails, goading each other to more depraved acts.



Mr Justice John Royce warned them they faced substantial prison sentences as he adjourned the case for reports.



He also urged George to co-operate with police in identifying all her victims.



He told her: "A lot of people are affected by this case and I would like your help."



Mr Justice Royce said many parents still do not know if their child was among the victims - but George "must know".



Addressing Nicolas Gerasimidis, George's counsel, Mr Justice Royce said: "Your client must know, it seems to me, who she has abused and who she has not.



"If I were a parent, I would want to know whether my child was abused or not.



"Would it not be decent for her to indicate who she has abused? It is a factor that I have got to take into account."



Defence lawyers for Allen and George suggested there was a degree of encouragement of the two women by Blanchard.



But the judge rejected suggestions that Blanchard was the main instigator who groomed the two women to abuse children.



Judge Royce said of George: "She is not a child. This is a married woman who can make up her own mind whether she indulges in this sort of activity or not."



The judge adjourned the case, provisionally scheduling sentencing for November 13.



As George, Blanchard and Allen were led to the cells, victims' relatives remained relatively calm - except for one man who waved sarcastically and another who ran his thumb along his throat.



Detective Inspector Costa Nassaris, of Devon and Cornwall Police public protection unit, said police feared many of the victims - some of whom were between 12 and 18 months old - may never be identified.



He said: "Work is ongoing, we've not given up on that, but the probability I would have to say is very low that we will identify any of these children."



Detective Superintendent Adrian Pearson, of Nottinghamshire Police, said that how the trio came to meet on Facebook also remained a mystery.



He said: "How did three people get connected on Facebook and somehow get on to such depraved, awful topics of conversation that led to sex assault of children, betrayal of trust, depravity, awful crimes being commissioned and exchanged between the three of them?"