Paedo Priest's '300 Victims'

By Richard Smith
Mirror [United Kingdom]
July 29, 2006

PERVERTED priest Simon Thomas smirked yesterday as he was jailed for life for using internet chatrooms to groom children for sex.

The married minister - a father-of-four - admitted twice raping a boy of 11 and charges involving nine other boys under 16.

But police revealed last night that he may have claimed another 300 victims.

Thomas, 44, posed as a schoolboy in chatrooms before revealing his real age and telling children: "Age is just a number."

The respected reverend was first questioned by police in 2003 but released through lack of evidence.

He continued to travel the country visiting his victims - until the mother of one 12-year-old discovered he had been urging the youngster to perform sex acts via a webcam.

Detectives examined the family computer and were able to identify Thomas. He was arrested on a Boy's Brigade trip to Devon last July. Police raided the home he shared with wife Jan in Hythe, Hants - and found a a stash of computer images of children being raped by adults.

Thomas's laptop also contained a spreadsheet cataloguing 1,200 contacts he had made over the internet - many of them under 16.

Police have so far traced nine victims, all boys under 16, because Thomas saved obscene chat logs on his computer.

They are still working through the list - and fear the offences Thomas admitted are "just the very tip of the iceberg".

Thomas, who worked at the United Reformed Church in Hythe for 10 years, admitted all 35 charges put to him at Southampton crown court.

They included the rapes, inciting children to engage in sexual activity, meeting children following sexual grooming, indecency with a child, and making indecent photographs of children.

Bespectacled Thomas grinned as Judge Jeremy Burford QC jailed him for life with a minimum term of eight years - and suggested he should never be released.

The judge told him: "It is impossible to say if your sexual lust for young boys will ever cease.

"You showed a total disregard for the welfare and the psychological harm you did to the children.

"There was a very severe, steady increase in the seriousness of the crimes you committed as you became more obscene and as the age of your victims became progressively younger.

"I wish to make it clear this is not a sentence of eight years, this is a sentence of life imprisonment.

"Whether parole will ever be considered and if this defendant will ever be released is impossible to say."

Det Insp Adrian Prangnell, head of Hampshire Police's paeodophile unit, said after the case: "There could be as many as 300 more victims yet to be identified.

"This has been a terrible reminder to parents to ensure our children use the internet in a safe and secure way."


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