'Horrific abuse' by Cornwall paedophile ring

image captionThe paedophile ring contacted each other by messages left in public toilets

A major paedophile ring which abused about 30 young girls in Cornwall has been smashed by police.

The trail of abuse can only be reported now, after Falmouth kitchen fitter James Machin, 54, was convicted at Truro Crown Court of a series of sexual offences.

His conviction, along with those of John Barrett and John Wrey two years ago, is the conclusion of a three-year investigation by police.

Barrett, 49, a builder from Camborne, was jailed for 14 years in 2008, while 55-year-old Wrey, from Hayle, was sentenced to five-and-a-half years.

Earlier this month a fourth man, 46-year-old Alan Wills from Camborne, was convicted of sexual offences against children at Truro Crown Court.

Although no link was established between Wills and the others, two of the victims were abused by all four men.

According to the investigating officer, the abuse has left a trail of mental scars which may never be healed.

Machin was introduced to the victims in 2005 by convicted paedophile Barrett, who had already been grooming and abusing them before passing them on to other men to do the same.

The court heard Barrett and Machin took the young girls to an empty holiday cottage in Flushing near Falmouth that Machin had a key for.

The victims, some as young as five, were repeatedly raped and abused, with the prosecution describing the offences as "abominable" and "depraved".

'Never forget'

Senior investigating officer Det Insp Simon Snell said: "We are talking about the rapes of very young children for a number of years.

"The abuse has been really awful."

Det Insp Snell believes the children, who are all undergoing counselling for their abuse, will never recover.

He said: "I don't feel there is such a thing as closure.

"They are all at different stages in their recovery from this awful traumatic situation.

image captionJames Machin drove victims to an empty holiday cottage in his van

"Some of them may get over it, but my personal view is that it is something they will never forget for the rest of their lives."

Officers were accompanied by staff from local children's services when they interviewed victims to ensure that children were treated correctly.

Det Insp Snell added: "It is the most horrific abuse you can possibly imagine.

"I have got 29 years service as a police officer and the abuse I have seen in this investigation is probably the most serious I have ever had to deal with."

Police suspect that despite having "exhausted every line of inquiry" there will other victims.

The mother of one of Machin's victims said she felt "extremely angry", but also guilty.

Victim on drugs

The woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, said: "I didn't look after her, although I tried.

"I did feel guilty because a parent's job is to look after her children."

Since the offences she has discovered that her daughter, who is now living with friends, has been taking drugs.

She said: "I believe it was a lot to do with this, trying to block it out."

She said her daughter needed continued counselling.

"She's trying so hard to get on the straight and narrow, to do the right thing, but because her head is so messed up she doesn't know what to do.

"She's just completely all over the place."

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