One of Britain’s most prolific paedophiles has been jailed for 25 years after targeting up to 5,000 children online.
David Wilson, a 36-year-old roofer who lived with his mother, admitted 96 sex abuse offences against 52 boys as young as four.
But an investigation by the National Crime Agency (NCA) found that he had duped and blackmailed up to 500 boys into sending him images of themselves, and contacted around 5,000 boys globally.
Sentencing Wilson at Ipswich Crown Court on Wednesday, Judge Rupert Overbury described him as a “serial paedophile” and an “extremely dangerous individual”.
He told him: “You carried out a lengthy and premeditated campaign of sadistic and manipulative abuse of young boys using social media.
“Any decent human being will be astonished at the level of depravity involved.”
Judge Overbury said Wilson had “demonstrated a complete and utter disregard for every child” he manipulated, adding: “There was a sadistic element to your offending including blackmail and a relentless targeting of vulnerable children, who often pleaded for mercy.”
Wilson posed a teenage girl on a series of fake online social media accounts, building trust with his victims before sending them sexual images of young women harvested from the internet in exchange for the boys sending him photos and videos back.
Using unregistered phones, he also blackmailed several victims into sending more extreme footage, including of them abusing younger siblings or friends, by threatening to send their photos to relatives.
“Victims begged him to stop but he carried on,” Tony Cook, head of child sex abuse operations at the NCA.
“Wilson has absolutely devastated not only his victims but the families they belong to.
“He has caused heart-breaking suffering and huge disruption to the lives of those he targeted from the problems his abuse caused.”
One of the boys Wilson abused said he was left feeling suicidal as the predator threatened to share an indecent image of him across the internet.
The child, speaking anonymously, said he had just created his first Instagram account aged 11 when he was approached by an account using pictures of a girl around his age.
He said that over time the account “began to threaten and harass me” and said they would leave him alone in exchange for an image, which he sent.
More than a year later, another account, using photos of a different girl around the same age - also operated by Wilson - approached him and blackmailed him using his photo.
He said the account demanded another indecent image or it would spread the previous one “all across the internet”.
“At 12 years of age I was abused, blackmailed, made to feel suicidal,” he said. “That's something that no kid should have to go through.”
Wilson, of King’s Lynn in Norfolk, was arrested at least three times before he was detained by the NCA as part of the current case in April 2020.
Norfolk Police arrested him in 2015, but he “lost his phone” and there was insufficient evidence.
Then in July 2017, the Facebook notified the NCA that 20 boys aged between 12 and 15 had sent indecent images of themselves to an account seemingly belonging to a 13-year-old girl.
Mr Cook said the NCA worked to identify and protect the victims and the same time as trying to uncover the person behind the fake account.
They linked it to an unregistered mobile phone, which Wilson was then caught topping up.
He was arrested on 22 August 2017 but Mr Cook said the NCA could not charge him because they “didn’t have enough to prove the extent of his offending”.
Wilson was released on bail as the NCA applied to Facebook for more information, but he was arrested again on 18 January 2018, while committing further offences.
But officers discovered no electronic devices at his home and said they were again unable to charge him, despite then having almost 100 social media referrals linked to him.
Investigators said they lodged a mutual legal assistance request with US social media companies, including Facebook, but it was not answered until October 2019.
The NCA said it received 250,000 messages and that the volume of data posed a “significant challenge”, as investigators identified children at risk and contacted police and social services.
Wilson was arrested for the final time on 28 April 2020, after the NCA proved Wilson was controlling seven false female identities, using 14 social media accounts, eight email addresses and five mobile phones.
He had continued offending throughout his time on bail, and officers found a new mobile phone that Wilson attempted to flush down the toilet when his mother’s home was raided.
When asked how Wilson had been able to continue targeting children, Mr Cook said: “We apply bail conditions but we can’t be with them 24 hours a day … Wilson was really determined. We did as much as possible.
“It’s frustrating that it takes so long to bring these cases, but we have to take time to ensure we’ve got the right person and sufficient evidence.”
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in