Paul Leighton, 32, of Seaham, County Durham, set up 40 fake Facebook profiles to snare his young
The predatory paedophile who never met his victims set up 40 fake Facebook profiles to snare his young victims, a court heard yesterday.
Paul Leighton posed as a teenage girl online to groom hundreds of youngsters.
Astonishingly, he was on police bail at the time – enabling him to use Facebook to blackmail children into committing rape and incest.
He was jailed yesterday as a serial child rapist, despite never actually meeting most of his victims. In the first case of its kind, the court accepted he had ‘directed’ the abuse and was therefore guilty of raping children some of whom were thousands of miles away.
The 32-year-old demanded compromising photos of his victims, then threatened to show them to their parents – after he identified their mothers and fathers in their list of Facebook friends.
He blackmailed the teens to force them into ever more horrific acts.
Judge Robert Adams told Leighton, of Seaham, County Durham, he had ‘destroyed the lives’ of the youngsters.
It emerged that when he committed his worst crimes, including inciting a 14-year-old boy to rape his own niece, he was on police bail.
From his scruffy £70,000 house in Seaham, County Durham, Leighton set up bogus social media accounts and pretended to be a child. The 32-year-old’s fake profiles were so successful he was able to groom hundreds in online chatrooms, then film them naked via their webcams
He had been arrested after a single mother he met on a dating website accused him of sexually assaulting her nine-year-old daughter in 2015.
But it was 22 months before he was finally charged for 19 crimes, including rape, sexual assault and grooming.
Newcastle Crown Court heard one 14-year-old boy in America was repeatedly ordered by Leighton to rape his baby niece, who was just 12 months old and in nappies, or risk embarrassing images being sent to his family.
Leighton warned the youth: ‘Do everything I say to her, or I will,’ forcing him to comply with the pervert’s twisted demands and subject the baby to a campaign of shocking abuse.
Leighton also forced a 13-year-old girl in America to engage in repeated sexual acts with her own brother.
Prosecutor Paul Reid told the court: ‘He said he had created 30 to 40 Facebook accounts and joined various teen chat groups on Facebook.
Leighton will be jailed at Newcastle Crown Court (file pic) after admitting 19 ‘sample’ offences including three rapes, two sexual assaults on girls under 13 and four counts of grooming
‘He said this was to enable him to engage in chat with children and persuade them to send illegal images to him.
‘In order to convince them he was himself a female child, he would send them illegal images which he had in his possession.
‘He admitted he would search Facebook to identify friends and family of the child concerned, in order to be able to threaten to send the illegal images to their family if they did not send further photographs to him.’
The FBI is expected to try to extradite Leighton for trial in the United States, and he also had victims in Canada and Australia.
Two of the boys he used to commit the appalling acts have been arrested in the United States for incest and rape.
A mobile phone belonging to Paul Leighton, who posed as a teenage girl to convince children on the internet to send him graphic images of themselves
Detectives said Leighton was the worst child abuser they had ever come across – and branded him a ‘spine-chilling reminder’ of the dangers of children talking to strangers online.
One British victim was left suicidal by the abuse while an American girl said she was too scared to sleep.
Leighton first came to the police’s attention after a partner accused him of sexually assaulting her a nine-year-old daughter when he touched her inappropriately.
But in February 2015 he was bailed after claiming that he had just been tickling her. In March 2016 he was arrested again, but once again was let go.
It was not until December 2016 that he was charged – and over the three-year period of his offending he groomed hundreds of victims, police said. Leighton filmed the gruesome attacks via a webcam.
In one horrifying attack, he posed online as a young girl called Layla Pattinson, and forced a 13-year-old girl from Tennessee in the US to have sex with her brother.
She sent him pictures of herself, after being reassured by similar half-naked pictures he had downloaded illegally and sent her.
Leighton blackmailed young girls (stock pic), threatening to expose the videos to their families unless they submitted to further sordid demands via webcam
He threatened to send them to family if she did not comply with his wishes. She begged him to stop but unrelenting he forced the girl, who was a virgin, to have sex with her brother.
In all police believe Leighton, who only met one of his victims, may have attacked several hundred children using fake social media profiles that take just five minutes to set up.
Leighton, who spray-painted cars in Sunderland for a living, committed his crimes at night while on a cocktail of cannabis, benzodiazepines, a drug used to treat anxiety, and alcohol.
Jailing him, the judge said the abuse was ‘appalling’.
Leighton will serve 16 years behind bars and six years on licence for three counts of rape, two sexual assaults on girls under 13, four counts of causing or inciting grooming, three counts of making and two counts of distributing indecent photographs, three counts of blackmail, one count of assault on a girl under 13, and one count of possessing a class B drug.
The judge made a Sexual Harm Prevention Order that prevents him from communicating with children, or using the internet or social media without strict supervision.