Yesterday, at Ipswich Crown Court, a 36 year old man was sentenced after admitting 96 sex offences against 52 boys aged from just four to 14 between May 2016 and April 2020.
Wilson’s victims were terrified and felt they had no choice but to do what he demanded. Some were so traumatised they spoke of wanting end their lives.
Judge Rupert Overbury noted "You demonstrated a complete and utter disregard for every child you manipulated irrespective of their age.
"There was a sadistic element to your offending including blackmail and a relentless targeting of vulnerable children who often pleaded for mercy."
Using unregistered phones, Wilson scoured social media sites for vulnerable victims.
To deceive young boys into believing they were talking to a teenage girl, he created a spider’s web of fake girls’ identities. He sent them sexual images of young women from the internet in exchange for the boys sending him videos and images of themselves.
He built up trust with his victims before blackmailing them into sending him more extreme footage of themselves – and in some cases, of them abusing younger siblings or friends.
On some occasions Wilson then distributed the images to victims’ friends.
The NCA lead officer explained, “Wilson preyed on their vulnerability. They genuinely believed they were talking to a teenage girl who was interested in them.
“He groomed, bullied and blackmailed young boys into sending him indecent images and in some instances performing horrific abuse on themselves and others. Despite knowing their utter anguish and despair he ignored their pleas for him to stop.
“He retained indecent material and threatened to share it among victims’ friends so he could maintain control of them.
“Sadly there are many offenders out there like Wilson who use the internet to hide their real identities, using convincing personas to groom children.
“I urge parents to speak with their children about who they communicate with online and what they share. People need to understand this can happen to anyone.
“Many boys’ parents in this case spoke of their disbelief that their children had become victims.
“It’s vital children know they can turn to a parent or trusted adult for help without blame.
“I commend the victims’ bravery and their families for helping us put Wilson in jail.”
Wilson, of Kirstead, King’s Lynn, Norfolk, admitted 96 offences including: intentionally causing or inciting boys to engage in sexual activity; blackmail; intentionally causing children to look at sexual images, and intentionally facilitating the sexual exploitation of children by sending on images of those children.
The NCA launched its investigation into Wilson in 2017 after receiving crucial information from Facebook identifying 20 accounts of boys ranging from 12 to 15 years old, who had sent indecent images of themselves to an account seemingly belonging to a 13-year-old girl.
There is one more important point to Wilson's story:
The overwhelming majority of Wilson’s crimes were committed on Facebook, and the company was crucial in bringing him to justice. Facebook made 90 referrals about Wilson’s offending.
But Facebook currently plans to encrypt its messenger service which will mean offenders like Wilson will likely go undetected because the company will no longer be able to see evidence of crimes and report them to global law enforcement.
Rob Jones, NCA Director of Threat Leadership, said: “Facebook’s plans are a disaster for child safety and law enforcement and mean the very many other David Wilsons out there will not be caught.
“Criminals will be drawn to Facebook, emboldened and confident it’s a place they can search for children to sexually abuse with complete impunity.
“Facebook Messenger is already strongly encrypted, enabling them to detect grooming and known abuse images while protecting privacy.
“It was the company’s referrals that helped us identify Wilson, discover the full picture of his prolific offending and ensure he was locked up.
“There are two billion people on Facebook and we know a large number of them are targeting children to abuse them.
“In 2019 Facebook made 15.8 million global referrals of child sexual abuse material, they have been a huge help to lawful investigations and child safeguarding.
“But their plans will create a haven for child sex offenders to congregate to target children.
“It’s not too late for Facebook to change their mind.”
“Social media tip offs last year helped policing and the NCA arrest over 4,500 child sex offenders and safeguard 6,000 children in the UK.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of a similar crime then we encourage you to report the matter to your local police.
If you have been affected by anything in this report then information and advice can be found on the Thinkuknow website. Links also include advice for parents, carers and professionals
Child protection charity The Lucy Faithfull Foundation runs the Stop It Now! helpline which offers confidential advice to anyone concerned about their own or someone else’s behaviour towards children.