Neighbours of Norwich paedophile speak of their shock

Sam EmanuelNeighbours of a Norwich sex offender, who has admitted running a national paedophile ring, have spoken of their horror, as the Evening News today reveals his list of previous paedophilia convictions.Sam Emanuel

Neighbours of a Norwich sex offender, who has admitted running a national paedophile ring, have spoken of their horror, as the Evening News today reveals his list of previous paedophilia convictions.

Carl Gardner admitted 13 sex offences when he appeared before Norwich Crown Court yesterday, including 10 counts of making indecent images of children, one of the possession and distribution of indecent images and one of the possession of an extreme image.

The 30-year-old, of Coleburn Road, Old Lakenham, was the ringleader of the gang which distributed indecent pictures and videos of children using mobile phones.

Today, the Evening News can reveal that Gardner was put on the Sex Offenders' Register in 2006 and has several previous convictions, including one for downloading photographs of naked boys at Norwich's Millennium Library in 2003.

Det Con Jamie Hollis, of Norfolk police, said there were currently eight other men being prosecuted as a result of the latest investigation.

More arrests - possibly hundreds - could follow as inquiries continue to establish the full extent of the operation.

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One neighbour, who lives opposite Gardner and has three young daughters, said: 'I can't believe it - I've got three little girls and he lives bang opposite my house.

'I always have my curtains shut, day and night, because I'm so worried about him looking at them. Because they are young, they might come into the lounge without a top on or sit doing their shoelaces up with their legs apart, and I can't bear to think of him seeing them - I tell the girls to keep away from the window. No-one should have to live like that.

'I knew about his previous convictions because when I moved in, one of the people living down the road begged me to keep an eye on my children as there was a paedophile living opposite us.

'I know he goes out on his motorbike, but I haven't really seen much of him. He shouldn't be allowed to live there; there are a lot of kids around here. He should be in prison forever.'

Another neighbour who lives opposite the paedophile added: 'We've seen him out and about and he is very odd and seems dopey.

'I'm so shocked that he has been doing this - we were completely unaware of it. We knew he had done it before but thought he was laying low after that. He used to sit up in the bedroom staring out the window - maybe he was looking at the kids - I don't know.'

Gardner, who was in contact with people who had abused their own children whilst committing the offences, also pleaded guilty to four unrelated counts of fraud and another of failing to comply with a court order. He was remanded in custody until April 6, when he will be sentenced.

Investigators have constructed an intricate spider's web-style diagram mapping the full extent of the ring.

Gardner would distribute images to an 'inner circle', who would then pass them on to a wider network. Police forces across the country are involved in tracking down other gang members.

Officers are also trying to establish whether the gang distributed only existing images of children or if some members had taken pictures of their own children. Det Con Hollis said some of the images appear to have been taken 'live'.

'In some instances he was in contact with people who had abused their own children,' he added.

The investigation started when police received intelligence from a chat site that two people had been discussing the abuse of young boys.

'Gardner was trying to capture the market by posing as three different characters using various chat sites,' said Det Con Hollis.

'He posed as a father of four boys, a mother and young child. His idea was to try to make friends and enter into conversations, testing the water to find like-minded people.

'He eventually would lead them into discussions of an inappropriate nature. This then went on to the exchange of images.

'We soon realised this wasn't one person; it was a paedophile ring, a hub and he was at the centre of it. It was a ripple effect.'

Police allowed the ring to continue operating so they could gather us much intelligence as possible in the hope they could eventually arrest everybody involved.

But Det Con Hollis said they would not have allowed this to endanger children.

He said: 'We agreed at the start that the moment we came across evidence of children being subjected to fresh abuse, rather than distributing existing images, we would stop it immediately.

'There was always a desire to identify victims. If saving one child meant jeopardising the job, then so be it. We will always jeopardise the job if it means a child can be saved and in this case some children have been saved.'