SPECIAL REPORT – Part 1: Southend ‘sex ring’ victim says ‘heads should roll’ after paedophile ‘informant’ was set free to molest more children

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EXCLUSIVE

A VICTIM of a Southend paedophile ring has said ‘heads should roll’ after it was revealed that a plea bargain offered to a notorious sex offender set him free to continue abusing children.

Dennis King last faced child sex charges last year, but evaded prosecution when he died in November 2018 from pneumonia and AIDS-related illness.

An award-winning YA investigation revealed he had faced a possible life sentence in 1990 after he was caught running a major paedophile ring from a flat in Shoeburyness.

But a generous plea bargain saw his sentence significantly reduced, setting him free to commit more than 15 further sex offences – including photographing himself abusing children, then framing the images and using them to decorate his flat.

Earlier this year, the YA uncovered a secret document from 1993, in which a police officer claimed King had been a ‘registered informant’ and said a senior officer had tried to discourage investigations into his crimes against Southend children.

The revelations prompted experts to contact the national independent inquiry into child abuse – known as IICSA – and ask for the handling of the case to be investigated.

Those who have urged IICSA to probe the Shoebury case include the founder of a leading abuse charity, a QC working on the inquiry, and a solicitor representing whistleblowers and victims from the case.

Now, in an exclusive interview, one of King’s victims from the Shoebury case has broken his 30-year silence to condemn the way the authorities dealt with him.

He said: “I can’t believe it happened. I just feel let down. And the fact that they let him out to continue doing it and potentially infect other people with HIV and AIDS – heads have got to roll.”

The YA has independently confirmed that the victim was included on the witness list for the planned trial of King and one of his accomplices, Brian Tanner, in April 1990.

He said he attended court and was ‘keen’ to testify, but was told when he arrived that he could go home again because King and Tanner had changed their pleas to guilty.

He said it was not explained to him that they had only done so in return for a generous plea bargain, and he was not consulted before the deal was done.

The YA began investigating the ‘Shoebury Sex Ring’ case – as it was called by the authorities in 1989/90 – when whistleblowers raised concerns with us in 2015.

The whistleblowers possessed contemporaneous documents which showed known victims of the Shoebury ring had given detailed intelligence about a far wider network of abusers than just King and Tanner – but police had shown little interest in pursuing any of the other men.

The whistleblowers – all child protection workers with direct professional connections to the case – were so alarmed by the police’s inaction that they met with lawyers in 1990 and penned an affidavit detailing the intelligence they had relayed to Essex Police, which the force had not followed up.

Last year the YA tracked down what was thought to be the last surviving copy of the affidavit, days before it was due to be incinerated.

In it, the workers gave detailed descriptions of the intelligence that was being provided by the abused children, but anonymised the victims and alleged perpetrators.

In an interview with Regional Journalist of the Year Charles Thomson, conducted earlier this month, the victim from the 1990 case said he had told police there were at least two more men involved in addition to King and Tanner.

But he described the police who interviewed him as ‘aggressive’ and ‘agitated’, and said they never showed any interest in the other two men or sought any further information from him about them.

He said: “It was all really weird. It was not how I, as an adult, would now expect it to be. It was all rushed. Nobody could really be bothered.

“It was like they were going through the motions… There was nothing nice about them.”

A formal review of the Shoebury case was conducted by Essex Police in 2017, but concluded there was no evidence of corruption.

The victim said he was never contacted as part of this review, despite having given a statement and appeared on the witness list.

In January 2019, after the YA discovered the document describing King as a ‘registered informant’, Essex Police declined to comment, saying national police guidance advised against commenting on media inquiries about informants.

Essex Police is presently the subject of a lengthy complaint to the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) by another Shoebury victim – named in Social Services files on the ring from 1990 – who claims police failed to properly investigate his allegations after he reported them in 2017 and 2018.

The IOPC passed the complaint to Essex Police and asked the force to investigate itself.

The force claims it cannot investigate yet because one of the officers involved is on extended leave.

Asked about the complaint in June, Essex Police said it was ‘disappointed’ to hear the victim was unhappy, but insisted there had been an ‘extensive investigation’.

Click below for Part 2 – an exclusive interview with the Shoebury victim.

Charles Thomson

Chief ReporterEmail: [email protected]

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