A serial child sexual abuser has been jailed for 25 years at Ipswich crown court after being convicted of offences against dozens of children, and investigators fear he targeted thousands.
David Wilson, 36, from King’s Lynn in Norfolk, posed online as a young girl, targeting young boys so they would send sexual images of themselves. Victims ranged in age from four to 14.
As the grooming turned into abuse, some were threatened with blackmail if they did not do what Wilson demanded. Some were so terrified they abused younger children and recorded the attacks. Some later tried to kill themselves.
Most of Wilson’s offending was committed while he was on bail as law enforcement tried to get the evidence a court would accept to convict him.
Last November Wilson pleaded guilty at Ipswich crown court to 96 offences against 51 children. The National Crime Agency said 500 children had sent Wilson images over a period of four years, and 5,000 had been targeted.
Wilson used pay-as-you-go phones, which do not have to be registered, and hid behind fake identities online. Detectives had to prove Wilson was the person connected to the phones and false identities. It took three years to bring the former roofer to justice. At one point Wilson threw a phone down a toilet when police came to arrest him.
He was first detected by safety systems belonging to Facebook, the platform he mainly used to find victims.
Tony Cook, of the National Crime Agency, said: “He showed very little compassion even when victims begged him to stop. He built up trust and then blackmailed them.
“David Wilson has absolutely devastated not only his victims but the families they belong to. He has caused heartbreaking suffering and huge disruption to the lives of those he targeted from the problems his abuse caused. Wilson preyed on their vulnerability. They genuinely believed they were talking to a teenage girl who was interested in them.
“He groomed, bullied and blackmailed young boys into sending him indecent images and in some instances performing horrific abuse on themselves and others. Despite knowing their utter anguish and despair, he ignored their pleas from him to stop. He retained indecent material and threatened to share it among victims’ friends so he could maintain control of them.”
The offences, involving victims in the UK, US and Australia, occurred between May 2016 and April 2020.
Wilson was first arrested in August 2017 after being flagged by Facebook, but he was released on bail while the investigation continued.
Police believe Facebook’s plans to move to end-to-end encryption could mean offenders as prolific as Wilson may get away with their crimes.
The home secretary, Priti Patel, said: “The tireless efforts of the NCA have put a truly awful criminal behind bars, providing justice to those who suffered as well as protecting hundreds of potential victims.
“This sickening case is a chilling reminder of how crucial it is that tech companies play their part in combating child sexual abuse. It is vital that Facebook do not press ahead without amending their current end-to-end-encryption plans, otherwise sick criminals like David Wilson could still be abusing children with impunity.”