Two retired Met Police officers have been jailed for plotting to share child sexual abuse images with a serving chief inspector – who was found dead the day he was due to be charged.
Jeremy Laxton and Jack Addis, both 63, admitted to conspiring with Ch Insp Richard Watkinson to distribute or show indecent images of children.
Over 2,500 abuse images in the most serious category were found by police.
Watkinson’s body was discovered at his home on 12 January.
One of worst images ever seen
The chief inspector, who was first arrested in July 2021, was suspended from duty while under investigation for conspiracy to distribute indecent images of children, voyeurism and misconduct in public office. All three men had served together in the Met between the late 1990s and 2002 in Ealing, west London, Southwark Crown Court heard.
Among the material found during the Met’s investigation were videos of babies and children visibly distressed and tied up while being abused. One investigating officer said the material included one of the worst category A images ever seen.
Laxton, from Lincolnshire, was sentenced to five years and nine months for conspiracy to share child sexual abuse images, as well as for three counts of making indecent photos of a child, possession of prohibited images of a child, possession of extreme pornographic images, intentionally encouraging or assisting an offence of misconduct in a public office and possession of cannabis.
Addis, formerly of Perthshire, received three years and nine months. Both men pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing.
The judge, Mr Justice Wall, told the pair: “You’d each been policemen. You must have been fully aware of the damage to such children by sharing these images,” although he said he accepted they were “remorseful and ashamed”.
‘Can’t wait for the details’
During the Met’s investigation thousands of images were found on a computer hard drive: 2,516 in the most serious Category A, 1,032 in Category B and 1,701 in Category C.
Following a search of Laxton’s mobile phone, messages were found including a conversation with Watkinson, who was on duty at the time, about a missing person investigation into a 14-year-old who had been raped.
They exchanged sexual messages about the victim, with Laxton saying “put me in touch [with them]”, adding “can’t wait for the details”. He also encouraged Watkinson to send him a photograph of the victim.
Addis and Watkinson also shared non-sexual images of children who were known to them, and had sexual conversations about them.
‘Buried within the walls’
The court heard that all the men had met on more than one occasion to transfer images and videos of children on to a hard drive, “to act as a library that all three of them could access”.
Investigators also discovered images on a device hidden in a wall cavity at an address in Lincolnshire, after they read a message on Laxton’s phone that said: “I have buried all my old equipment within the walls, have you done the same?”
Laxton and Addis were both made the subject of a sexual harm prevention order for 10 years by Mr Justice Wall, restricting their access to the internet and electronic devices.
The order also restricts the pair’s physical access to under-18s.
An inquest into Ch Insp Watkinson’s death has been opened and adjourned.
The Met Police previously said the Thames Valley force was dealing with the case, with the death being treated as unexplained but not suspicious.
In a statement given shortly after the hearing where Laxton and Addis pleaded guilty, head of professionalism in the Met Police Cdr Jon Savell said: “As a police service, we strive to protect the most vulnerable members of society, especially children, and I know officers who served with them will feel utterly betrayed by their disgusting actions.
“We are sickened that they are former colleagues.”