Paedophile ring in Cornwall 'abused at least 30 girls'

image captionBarrett (middle) passed two girls to Machin (left) and Wrey (right)

A third man involved in a paedophile ring which police say abused dozens of girls has been convicted of sex crimes.

James Machin was found guilty at Truro Crown Court of 10 sex offences relating to girls under 13. Two others were convicted of sex abuse charges in 2008.

Police described the abuse by the men in the Camborne area, found in a three-year investigation, as "horrific". One victim was five years old.

Inquiries began in December 2007 after a victim's parent raised concerns.

Abused at house

Two girls were abused by the same three men, the court heard.

John Barrett, 49, from the Camborne area, abused two girls, who were aged five and seven when the crimes first started, and passed them on to John Wrey to do the same.

Barrett was jailed for 14 years and 6 months in 2008 for 16 sexual offences.

Wrey, 55, from Hayle, who was arrested at the same time as Barrett, is serving a five-and-a-year sentence for his part in the abuse after he was also convicted in 2008.

On Friday a jury of seven men and five women decided, after two days of deliberations, that Machin was also guilty of similar sex offences against the girls which Barrett had passed on to him.

Machin, 54, from Falmouth, who was arrested in June 2009 and had denied all 10 counts, has yet to be sentenced.

However, the judge, Christopher Elwen, said it was likely the sentence would be longer than Barrett's 14 years.

The court heard that the men left messages for each other in public toilets.

It was also told that Barrett and Machin took two young girls to a house at Flushing, near Falmouth, where they abused them.

The girls were given cigarettes and sometimes had to sniff drugs during their ordeals.

The court heard that hours before Barrett was arrested, he phoned Machin to warn him that the net was closing in.

Machin then tried to cover his tracks by steam-cleaning the inside of his black Mercedes van.

image captionAlan Wills abused the same two girls as the three other men

He also tried to erase the hard drives of two laptops which contained child pornography.

Another man, Alan Wills, also abused the same two girls.

No link was established between Wills and the others, the court heard, but the pair of victims were abused by all four men.

Wills, 46, also from Camborne, was jailed for 16 years earlier this month for abusing a total of seven victims.

Devon and Cornwall Police said the inquiry, named Operation Lakeland, was one of the largest and most complex sex abuse investigations it had ever dealt with.

The chief investigating officer, Det Insp Simon Snell, said detectives had spoken to 30 victims and that there were real concerns there could be more.

Speaking after the Machin case, he added: "They are despicable, horrible, nasty individuals who preyed on vulnerable young children.

"My heart goes out to those children.

"I don't think they will ever get over this absolutely appalling abuse by the men involved."

Reporting restrictions which had been in place have now been lifted.

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