Couple ‘ran international paedophile ring’ from Portsmouth

TRIAL Portsmouth Crown Court
TRIAL Portsmouth Crown Court
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A TRIAL of five people accused over an international paedophile ring was halted after a juror burst into tears during the case opening.

Judge Roger Hetherington adjourned proceedings at 3.54pm today.

Prosecutor Kerry Maylin had warned the 12-strong jury at Portsmouth Crown Court they could find some evidence “shocking.”

The jury had heard three-and-three-quarter hours of Miss Maylin’s opening when Judge Hetherington adjourned the trial.

Miss Maylin earlier told how a Portsmouth couple allegedly used a nudist website as cover to set up an international paedophile ring.

Melissa Noon and Robert Hathaway – one of the ‘main players’ – are alleged to have feigned interest in nudism or naturism.

They are accused of using it as cover to attract other paedophiles to sexually assault young children and share vile videos and images of abuse.

The jury heard the pair used an online nudist web group to contact people.

They then set up another on-line ‘community’, for which Noon, 30, and Hathaway, 36, were administrators, it is alleged.

That group used email, live chat and phones to discuss the abuse of young children, take photos and stream videos of abuse and distribute them for sexual gratification.

The trail of abuse involved three children aged under 13 over two-and-a-half years.

It is alleged to have stretched as far as Sydney and Brisbane in Australia.

Addressing the jury, prosecutor Kerry Maylin said: ‘They spent a lot of time on their respective computers, each having access to their own.

‘Melissa Noon had a purple laptop and spent time online. She would talk to people who engaged in sexual activity with children.’

Miss Maylin said police found photographs of child abuse on Noon’s laptop.

It is alleged that Noon and Hathaway – who met in 2006 and moved in together in Portsmouth in March 2008 – communicated with people in Australia via the web.

Miss Maylin added: ‘(Noon) certainly watched videos of the Australian children being, the Crown say, sexually abused.’

The web group set up by Noon and Hathaway allegedly used email, live chat, and the telephone to maintain contact with each other.

‘They would talk both directly and with others about things within the ring,’ she said.

‘They took photographs of what they did and in some cases videos of what was happening.

‘Those photographs and videos were not simply to indulge their own sexual interests but were distributed within the group for the sexual gratification of others.’

Miss Maylin said one child was sexually abused during games of naked wrestling and naked Twister.

Sex toys were also used to assault the victims and one of the children was shown pornographic videos.

Police seized 20 sex toys from Noon and Hathaway’s home in Tyseley Road, Somers Town, Portsmouth, when the pair were arrested in December last year.

Officers also found a video labelled as a training video used to groom children.

Miss Maylin said the pair had ‘used the guise of being interested in naturism or nudism’ as cover for the abuse.

She added: ‘The Crown say this was no naturism or nudism in the proper sense of the word.

‘This was quite simply making children undress and be naked to satisfy their own sexual fetishes and those of (other) adults.’

Noon is one of five defendants today on trial accused of being part of the paedophile ring.

The four others are Daniel Bell, a serving soldier, John Maddox, Simon Hilton and Mark Day.

They face a string of sex offences offences involving three children under the age of 13.

Noon’s partner Hathaway has already pleaded guilty to more than 40 offences including rape and sexual assault on children.

Prosecutor Miss Maylin said: ‘Effectively you may think Robert Hathaway was one of the main players in what can only be described as an international paedophile ring.’

Noon faces 12 charges, dating back to between May 22, 2008 and December 9, 2010.

She is accused of three counts of causing a child under the age of 13 to engage in sexual activity, three of arranging or facilitating the commission of a child sex offence and two of sexual assault of a child under 13.

Noon is also charged with inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity, causing a child to watch a sexual act and two counts of possession of indecent images of children.

Bell, 27, a serving soldier living in military accommodation but previously of St James Road, Emsworth, faces five counts, all between the same dates.

He is accused of two counts of arranging or facilitating the commission of a child sex offence, attempting to distribute an indecent image of children and two of possession of indecent photographs of children. 

Hilton, 29, of Wolsey Road, Islington, London, faces one count of arranging or facilitating the commission a child sex offence between the same dates.

He has admitted two counts of arranging or facilitating commission of a child sex offence.

Hilton has also pleaded guilty to causing a child aged under 13 to engage in sexual activity and sexual assault of a child aged under 13.

Day, 45, of Whitefriars Meadow, Sandwich, Kent, faces two counts of arranging or facilitating the commission of a child sex offence.

Maddox, 46, of Ellis Avenue, Rainham, Essex, faces one charge, from October 8, last year, of causing a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity. 

Maintenance engineer Stephen Fraser, 41, of Hemingford Road, Cambridge, has already admitted one charge of sexual assault of a child aged under 13 and one count of causing a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity in connection with the case.

The jury were shown photos of Noon, Hathaway, Fraser and one of the children involved in a game of naked Twister with a pornographic film playing on TV in the background.

The couple also held a nude birthday party to celebrate Fraser turning 40 where children were present.

The trial is expected to last up to five weeks.

Proceedings are set to resume at Portsmouth Crown Court on Friday.