Nearly 30 years ago this man’s perverted obsession began, finally he is now where he belongs

A depraved sex offender with an "obsession" for abusing young boys became the "leader of a national paedophile ring". Raymond Hawthorne subjected numerous children to a string of appalling crimes over the course of nearly 30 years, including indecently assaulting one victim after giving him Pot Noodles laced with drugs and abducting a 12-year-old before "selling him" to other perverted men for their own gratification. His years of offending only came to an end once he was put behind bars for a combined total of close to four decades.

The now 60-year-old is known to have committed sexual offences as long ago as 1985, when he would have been aged around 21. He would go on to "prey upon, groom and sexually assault" two boys in the Birkenhead[1] area over the course of the next 10 years in what a judge described nearly 40 years later as "the beginning of a lifelong obsession involving the abuse and exploitation of young boys".

Liverpool Crown Court[4] heard that Hawthorne targeted one of the youngsters when he was aged as young as five, putting his hands down the complainant's trousers and touching his penis as well as performing sex acts upon him.

Robert Dudley, prosecuting, described how his vile behaviour continued for years and ultimately "escalated" to him raping the boy on two occasions before "chuckling" at his cries of pain. Hawthorne was meanwhile said to have taken the second child on trips away to Blackpool and theme parks and "bought him extravagant gifts" such as clothing, training shoes and even a bicycle, as well as plying him with alcohol and drugs. The paedophile then "smacked his bottom" and forced his hands into his pants and sexually assaulted him.

This victim also described being given Pot Noodles during visits to his abuser's house, then "remembering nothing" before waking up naked and realising he had been assaulted. Hawthorne was later said to have attempted to "bribe" him with cash, and ultimately did not face justice at the time. By 2004, the now 40-year-old had swapped his native Merseyside for Manchester.

And while he may have transported himself 40 miles down the M62, his moral compass had not moved an inch and remained pointed firmly in the direction of perversion and exploitation. A series of cases before Leeds Crown Court heard that Hawthorne had been "sold" a 14-year-old boy, who had been groomed for the previous two years by a co-defendant, at a fast food restaurant near to a motorway junction in Bradford. Over the course of the following week, the teenager - who later took his own life - was transported across England and subjected to a range of "degrading" sex acts up to eight times a day, with his ordeal only coming to an end when he was reported missing after failing to return to school.

Hawthorne was initially jailed for seven years after admitting four counts of conspiracy to commit indecent assault, gross indecency with a child, four charges of conspiracy to live off the immoral earnings of a prostitute and one offence of living off the immoral earnings of a prostitute - a sentence which was later increased to nine years upon appeal. Media reports from the time described him as the "leader of a national paedophile ring", whose members also included an undertaker and a member of the board for a religious charity who held himself up as an award-winning "pillar of the community"[5]. He recruited his customers using gay chatlines and would charge them rates of GBP90 to GBP120 per hour, of which he would pocket GBP60 to GBP80 and give the rest to the young sex workers under his control.

Hawthorne offered the services of boys aged as young as 12 and performed oral sex on one of his victims before masturbating in his presence.

Raymond Hawthorne pictured in 2004Raymond Hawthorne pictured in 2004

Being released from this sentence on December 5 2012, he was arrested again six months later in May 2013 after almost immediately returning to his old habits. Now aged 50, he began selling the sexual services of a 15-year-old old boy only weeks after he was freed. A "wicked and unrepentant" Hawthorne groomed the vulnerable teenager after befriending him on social media.

Bolton Crown Court heard that he controlled a "ring of young male prostitutes and sold them to clients across the country", and even complained to the police that there was "no money" in the escort business due to the growth of the internet. Hawthorne, who was reportedly assaulted by his co-defendant during a preliminary hearing before the magistrates' court, was ultimately handed another 10 years in prison plus an extended licence period of five years after being convicted of controlling prostitution for gain, controlling the prostitution of a child and six counts of failing to comply with notification requirements. He had still been serving this sentence until this week.

Raymond Hawthorne pictured in 2014Raymond Hawthorne pictured in 2014

His earliest sexual offences were the most recent to come to light, with the two boys - now men, one of them a dad - coming forward around five years ago.

Hawthorne however maintained that his appalling crimes had never been committed when finally confronted decades later and claimed during his trial in March that the allegations had been "fabricated for compensation". In a statement which was read out to the court on behalf of one of his victims during his sentencing on Monday, he said: "For as long as I can remember I have lived a life of fear. The fear of Ray, of being in trouble if anyone knew what was going on.

"I had feelings of embarrassment, guilt and remorse. I was so young, and I questioned if any of it was my fault or not. "As I started to get older, I realised what was going on was wrong.

I was a boy, and I was very embarrassed that it had happened to me. "I was scared to talk about it with anyone. I felt ashamed.

"I didn't think anyone would believe me, and I wasn't strong enough to deal with what was going on. He was a big, strong man and I was just a kid. "He deprived me of the childhood I should have had, and ultimately the person I should have become.

It is only in the last four to five years that I have found a little peace and tried to put the past behind me. "I hope that those hurt by this case can now heal and move forward. I'm not that vulnerable young boy anymore, and he's not that strong man."

The second complainant said that Hawthorne's actions had resulted in an "indescribable impact" upon him. He added in his statement: "I've been beating myself up my whole life, acting wounded and feeling sorry for myself. "I've been to hell and all of those dark places over and over again, sometimes not knowing if I could go on and unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Child abuse has lifelong effects, the consequences of which can't ever be fixed. "I'm still finding it all difficult to process, the fact that justice has finally been done. I don't believe the psychological effects will ever go away, but I am feeling slightly more positive and believe there is a light at the end of that long dark tunnel.

"I desperately want to start living. I want my life back, I want me back. "He cannot harm any more children.

This gives me hope for the future. "I realise the past cannot be change. But my future can."

Hawthorne, formerly of Crescent Road in Bolton, represented himself in court, having last week sacked the counsel that represented him at trial[6]. Spending more than an hour addressing the judge from the witness box, he stated that there had been "no evidence whatsoever of any drug" being found in the Pot Noodles and reported that the complainant merely said the snack had "tasted funny". Hawthorne added: "I've never been involved in drugs.

I've never taken drugs in my life or had anything to do with drugs, ever. "All of my offences are all to do with running a business. To say I've been convicted of anything other than that is wrong.

"There was no indecent assault. It never happened." Hawthorne also told the court that it's "rubbish" that he had committed any sexual offences.

He said of his convictions at Leeds Crown Court 20 years ago: "When I found out his age, I did nothing. "I was a coward. At that point, he got no more work.

"They were never forced or coerced. I believed at the time it gave them better working conditions. "I have heard many stories from people who work the streets whether they were battered, raped, thrown in canals or not being paid.

I've now come to terms with that there is no justification. "I no longer have those misguided beliefs, but back then I did. When I was in the newspapers, it's left me vulnerable that anyone can now make allegations.

"It was fake news and not correct. I have been in custody for many years now. "Being convicted of historical offences requires no evidence, just someone saying 'he did that to me' and they are going to be believed.

Because these offences happened many years ago, witnesses who could have helped me are no longer here. "I would be on my hands and knees asking for forgiveness. I would have pleaded guilty.

"My vice is gambling. I never drank, I never smoked, I never contemplated any involvement in drugs whatsoever. I estimate losing, over the years, approximately GBP750,000.

"I say I've not committed any sexual crime apart from selling sex. I just ask your honour to give me hope of a crime free lifestyle." Hawthorne was found guilty of two counts of rape, 10 charges of indecent assault and two offences of gross indecency with a child by the jury.

He was jailed for 27 years, a term of which he must serve at least two thirds before becoming eligible for release, on Tuesday and handed an additional eight years on licence. Appearing via video link to HMP Liverpool, Hawthorne showed no reaction as he was locked up and instead sat making notes with a pen and paper. He was also told to sign the sex offenders' register for life.

Raymond HawthorneRaymond Hawthorne

Sentencing, Judge Gary Woodhall said of the first victim: "He describes a life filled with fear, embarrassment, shame, guilt and remorse.

He was deprived of a normal childhood." The judge added of the second complainant: "You groomed him by giving him things that he could not get at home. As time went on, you also offered drink and drugs to him.

"As he got older, he finally realised that you had been drugging him. I am satisfied that you were drugging him in some way, using food that you had been giving him to do this. "What you did to him has affected him for his whole life.

He is numb, angry, alone, isolated and confused. "Each separately has had to live life with the pain and embarrassment you caused them. You attacked the character of each victim.

"You sought to portray yourself as a force for good. You lied repeatedly to the jury. "Your abuse of these two young children was the beginning of a lifelong obsession involving the abuse and exploitation of young boys.

I am perfectly satisfied that you are sexually interested in young boys and will use them sexually. "You have continued to maintain your innocence. You maintain a complete lack of sexual motivation for any of your offending.

"All of this shows that you continue to have a complete lack of any insight into your own offending and deviant motivations. There is a complete lack of remorse. "You addressed me yesterday for over an hour.

You continue to minimise your behaviour. "You present as utterly unable to understand the harm you have caused to children by your actions. You have sought to blame everyone other than yourself.

"This shows a complete lack of understanding for your predicament, motivation and risks.

You are in complete denial - whether deliberately or, more probably, because you are simply incapable of admitting and understanding the obvious."

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  1. ^ Birkenhead (
  2. ^ Mum screamed 'an XL bully has got my boy' as dog tore off son's scalp (
  3. ^ Thug asked 'why are you still breathing?' as he strangled girlfriend (
  4. ^ Liverpool Crown Court (
  5. ^ member of the board for a religious charity who held himself up as an award-winning "pillar of the community" (
  6. ^ represented himself in court, having last week sacked the counsel that represented him at trial (
  7. ^ Don't miss the biggest and breaking stories by signing up to the Echo Daily newsletter here (