A pensioner who was caught with more than one million pornographic images of children was jailed for 19 years today after admitting abusing young girls.
John Bidmead, 65, was caught red handed by police as he watched a child abuse movie, which was being streamed via his computer onto a 50-inch television, when they knocked on his front door with a warrant to arrest him.
There was so much indecent material found on his computers that police stopped counting when they reached 640,000 but detectives believe the total is more than one million.
Exeter Crown Court heard that the indecent haul includes films Bidmead had made of himself raping and abusing two young girls.
He also groomed two other girls and would pay one of them - aged just eight - money to pose for him indecently.
Bidmead, of Rull Lane, Cullompton, Devon admitted four rapes and four indecent or sexual assaults on one girl and two sexual assaults on a second. All these offences took place between 2001 and 2007.
He also pleaded guilty to 11 offences of taking indecent photographs and movies and eight of making indecent photographs or movies, including roll up counts totalling 640,738 films or photographs.
These included more than 24,000 at the two highest levels which show adults abusing children.
Richard Crabb, prosecuting, told the court that Bidmead was arrested when police received a tip-off from the Russian authorities that he had been accessing a file-sharing website to download child pornography.
“Of the first things the police officers noticed was a 50 inch TV monitor which showed that images of child abuse were being downloaded when they arrived,” he said.
“A total of 40 items were found, including a number of computers and the defendant was arrested for possession of indecent images.
“On his arrest, he replied 'bang to rights'.
“He admitted downloading child abuse material for the last 10 years and said he didn't know why he did it.”
Mr Crabb said Bidmead was released on bail pending the forensic examination of his computers, which revealed he had sexually abused two young girls, aged between eight and 10, and filmed it.
“There was too much material to examine all of it. There was simply not the resources available to go through all the material and the decision was made to prioritise,” Mr Crabb said.
“But estimates of a total exceed one million. It is the largest amount in this part of the country as far as we are aware of.
“The police officers involved in this inquiry have carried out a great deal of work in relation to the sheer scale of it.”
Mr Crabb said that Bidmead had not shared any of the material he had filmed himself but when confronted with it by detectives told them: “I don't want to see or hear it. I am guilty of everything shown on those videos.”
The court heard that Bidmead had written a letter to the judge which acknowledged the shame he had brought upon his family but did not ask for clemency.
Sean Brunton, defending, said: “He entirely accepts that he has betrayed all his family and his friends and in particular the victims of his own offending.
“He told the probation officer that what he had done was shameful and he expects to die in prison. He said he deserves whatever punishment he is given.
“He expresses to your honour, to the probation officer and to the psychiatrist deep regret and shame - powerless to do anything about what he has done by way of rectification.
“On behalf of the defendant I invite your honour to impose a sentence that both he and his victims would like and expect, which is a very long sentence in custody to represent that he has destroyed the lives of several people and in the process destroyed his own life.”
Passing sentence, Judge Phillip Wassall said the details of the case were “quite appalling” and described the police investigation as “exhaustive and debilitating”.
He told Bidmead: “The magnitude is quite staggering. You had more than a million images of children being abused, including significantly high numbers of images of the worst type of abuse.
“That was only a fraction because an analysis of your computer showed images of you raping and abusing a child.
“The impact upon the victims is considerable. Although you cannot recall it, the images tell their own story and provide the most graphic and appalling evidence of what you had done.”
Bidmead was also placed on the sex offenders' register for life, made subject of a sexual offences prevention order and ordered that his computer equipment and indecent collection be destroyed.
The judge praised the officers involved in bringing Bidmead to justice.
“This case involved the police looking at so much material and having to do so much work and I think it drives me to say that the officers involved should be commended,” the judge said.
“It has been a very thorough and extensive investigation and one that would be very difficult even for experienced officers.”
Detective Inspector Andrea Kingdon, of Devon and Cornwall Police, said after the hearing: “This has been a very distressing and sensitive investigation, particularly for the victims of this abuse.
“It is yet another example of how Devon and Cornwall Police will robustly investigate such offences.
“There is no doubt that Bidmead is a predatory child sex offender who has committed a number of extremely serious sex offences against children.
“I must also pay credit to officers in the force child exploitation unit who undertook this investigation.”
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