Man jailed for 12 years for putting child porn on rival's PC

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The Independent Online

At 8.30am on October 25 2006, Eddie Thompson answered the door of his east London home. He thought his visitor was an engineer coming to read his gas meter.

But Mr Thompson, a school caretaker, was met by Scotland Yard detectives who arrested him on suspicion of downloading child pornography. His arrest was the beginning of a four-year ordeal which ended only yesterday when Neil Weiner, a handyman at the same school, was jailed for 12 years for putting the indecent images on Mr Thompson's laptop. It was an attempt to get him sacked because he found him difficult to work for and because he hoped it would lead to a promotion.

The Old Bailey heard that Mr Thompson's picture had appeared on the front page of his local newspaper alongside the allegations after Weiner, 40, alerted them to the story. The 62-year-old was shunned by his neighbours, who thought he was a paedophile. He spent eleven hours in police custody and was placed on bail for the next eight months. He was suspended from his job of 13 years, and he and his wife were spat at in the street.

The nightmare ended when two of the detectives who arrested Mr Thompson suspected he had been set up and discovered Weiner was behind the plot.

Passing sentence, Judge David Paget said that Weiner's scheme, carried out against a "decent and honest man", was "wicked" adding: "It is difficult to imagine a more cunning, deceitful or warped code of conduct."

Mr Thompson, who sat in the court to watch Weiner being sentenced, admitted he was shocked by the length of sentence, but said: "I think he has got what he richly deserved. Because of him it could have been me in that dock for something I didn't do."

Weiner's plan began in June 2006 when, after working with Mr Thompson for just over a year, he told friends at a barbecue of his dislike for the Glaswegian caretaker and how he planned to frame him by planting child pornography on his computer.

He learned the password for Mr Thompson's laptop by looking over his shoulder in their shared office. Weiner then downloaded 177 indecent images – some of them at level 4, the second most serious category – and stored them on a disc.

He then copied them to Mr Thompson's laptop and changed the date the images were downloaded, making it appear as if they had been on the computer for longer than Weiner had worked with Mr Thompson.

In July and August 2006, he made calls to the police under the false name of "Steve" and told them that Mr Thompson, a caretaker at Swanlea Secondary School, in Whitechapel, east London, had been downloading child pornography. He also sent officers a disc which he said contained examples of the pornography.

When he was arrested, Mr Thompson immediately told officers he thought he had been set up. He was released on bail, but in January 2007 Weiner phoned the local newspaper and tipped them off. Mr Thompson's name and photograph was displayed on the front page and he was ostracised by friends and neighbours. He was forced to move out of his house and found that colleagues at school were ignoring him.

But police were beginning to realise that Mr Thompson had been set up. Firstly, none of the images on the disc sent by "Steve" matched with the images found on Mr Thompson's computer. And, the 177 images on the computer had been put there in 31 seconds, which means they could not have been downloaded from the internet – that would have taken much longer – but had been placed there via a disc.

Officers traced the mobile phone number "Steve" had given them and found it had been used in a phone belonging to Weiner. He was arrested and charged with perverting the course of justice and two counts of possession of indecent images.

Yesterday, as well as the 12 year sentence, Weiner, a married father-of-two, was placed on the sex offenders' register for life, and the judge warned him that prison would be a difficult place for him. "The prison population is not renowned for being particularly fair or reasonable," he said. "You will be suspected by many of being a paedophile and, like Mr Thompson, you may find that you suffer, both in prison and on release, for the rest of your life."

The judge said he hoped the case received wide publicity in order to restore Mr Thompson's reputation. As for Weiner, Mr Thompson said: "What he did was so stupid and unnecessary. It makes me sad because what he tried to do to me is the very thing he ended up doing to himself."