i wish he’d been un­faith­ful…

She wor­ried her boyfriend was cheat­ing, then Rachel, 37, dis­cov­ered that his sick­en­ing se­crets were far, far worse...

Pick Me Up! - - CONTENTS -

As my phone beeped, I felt my heart skip.

‘You’re like a giddy school­girl,’ my mate Han­nah teased as I rushed to un­lock my phone.

The mes­sage was from Paul Leighton, 29. We’d met through friends and had been ex­chang­ing flirty mes­sages.

I liked that he was so chatty and con­fi­dent. He wasn’t bad on the eye ei­ther.

Fancy hang­ing out?

Paul mes­saged.

Ex­cited, I in­vited him to my place that night in 2015 to share a take­away.

As we cosied up on the sofa, I en­joyed be­ing in Paul’s strong arms. And when he kissed me, sparks flew.

I’d been sin­gle for a while and didn’t want to rush things.

‘I’m not ready for any­thing more than kiss­ing and cud­dles,’ I ex­plained to Paul.

He un­der­stood and never pushed me.

I thought I’d found a real gent. But there was one thing about him that re­ally bugged me. He was al­ways glued to his phone. One day I spot­ted him with a dif­fer­ent mo­bile. ‘Have you got two phones?’ I asked, con­fused.

‘My old one keeps break­ing so I keep this one as a backup,’ he ex­plained.

I thought it was odd.

I even won­dered if he was tex­ting an­other woman.

We’d only been dat­ing a cou­ple of months and I didn’t want to come across as jeal­ous or needy. So I let it go. Then four weeks on, in sum­mer 2015, Paul sud­denly cut con­tact with me.

He stopped re­ply­ing to my text mes­sages and an­swer­ing my calls.

I knew he was OK be­cause he kept ap­pear­ing on What­sapp.

‘I think I’ve been dumped,’ I con­fided in Han­nah.

But, in­stead of hav­ing the guts to tell me, Paul had cho­sen the coward’s way out and was ghost­ing me.

I was gut­ted. We’d not been to­gether long but I’d started to feel like Paul was ‘the one’.

I thought back to his two phones. Maybe he did have an­other woman, af­ter all.

No won­der he didn’t mind us not hav­ing sex. He was get­ting it else­where!

I re­fused to mope, though. ‘I’m bet­ter off with­out him,’ I told my­self.

Then three months later, in Oc­to­ber 2015, I came home and found Paul on my doorstep.

‘Babe, I’m so sorry,’ he pleaded.

‘Get lost,’ I told him, hurt.

Paul wouldn’t give up, though.

He told me he’d been in hos­pi­tal. ‘I’ve got men­tal-health is­sues. I wasn’t well,’ he ex­plained.

Over the years, I’d suf­fered from de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety, so I knew how tough it could be.

Af­ter talk­ing things through, I agreed to give us an­other try.

But just a few days later, Paul dis­ap­peared again. Like be­fore, he ig­nored all my calls and texts.

‘I gave him a sec­ond chance and he’s blown it,’ I said to Han­nah, up­set.

‘You’re well rid,’ she agreed. As far as I was con­cerned, it was over for good.

So when Paul be­gan calling in Jan­uary 2016, I ig­nored him.

Two peo­ple can play that game, I thought.

Then, a few weeks later, I got chat­ting to a neigh­bour.

‘Have you heard?’ she said. ‘Paul’s been ar­rested.’

She told me an FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion had led to his ar­rest in con­nec­tion with a string of child-abuse charges.

‘You must be mis­taken. That doesn’t sound like Paul,’ I said. He wasn’t a sex­ual preda­tor. He’d been so pa­tient with me want­ing to take things slowly.

But she was adamant – and when I spoke to friends, they told me it was true.

The man I’d been dat­ing was a pae­dophile.

Over the com­ing days, I read

It bugged me that he was al­ways glued to his phone

about Paul in the pa­pers. And I was sick­ened to learn he was charged with a cat­a­logue of crimes against chil­dren.

But I only learned the whole truth last Septem­ber, when Paul Leighton, 32, ap­peared at New­cas­tle Crown Court.

I went along.

Just be­ing in the same room as him made my skin crawl.

The only feel­ing I had for him now was pure dis­gust.

The court heard Leighton had been pos­ing as a 16-yearold girl on­line. He’d cre­ated 30 to 40 Face­book ac­counts to trick his vic­tims, and had joined var­i­ous teen chat groups.

And he’d been en­cour­ag­ing teenagers to send him ex­plicit im­ages and videos.

Then the scum­bag black­mailed them into car­ry­ing out sex­ual acts while video­ing them­selves.

I felt bile rise in my throat. And it was about to get worse. Leighton re­peat­edly or­dered a 14-year-old boy in Amer­ica to rape a 12-month-old baby.

He threat­ened to leak ex­plicit im­ages to the boy’s fam­ily if he didn’t.

Leighton ap­par­ently warned him to ‘do ev­ery­thing

I say to her, or I will’.

And, fol­low­ing Leighton’s sick in­struc­tions, the lad sub­jected the baby to a cam­paign of shock­ing abuse.

Now the teen was fac­ing charges in Amer­ica.

The court heard Leighton also forced a 13-year-old girl in Amer­ica to en­gage in re­peated sex­ual acts with her older brother, who now faced in­cest charges.

I was in shock. I couldn’t be­lieve he’d man­aged to coax these kids into do­ing such heinous things from over 4,000 miles away.

For his own sick sex­ual kicks.

Pros­e­cu­tor Paul Reid told the court, ‘He ad­mit­ted he would search Face­book to iden­tify friends and fam­ily of the child con­cerned in or­der to be able to threaten to send the il­le­gal im­ages to their fam­ily if they did not send fur­ther pho­to­graphs to him.’

The court heard that the only vic­tim Leighton had ac­tu­ally touched him­self was a young

The only feel­ing I had for him now was pure dis­gust

girl who he sex­u­ally abused.

I could barely breathe as I took it all in.

When I’d seen Leighton with two phones, I thought he was play­ing away. Now I wished that was the truth.

De­tec­tives be­lieved around 100 chil­dren across the UK, Amer­ica, Canada and Aus­tralia may have been mo­lested un­der his com­mand.

My ex-boyfriend was a world­wide pae­dophile.

Leighton pleaded guilty to three of­fences of rape, one of sex­ual as­sault, four of caus­ing or in­cit­ing a child to en­gage in sex­ual ac­tiv­ity, three of black­mail and two of dis­tribut­ing in­de­cent im­ages.

He was sen­tenced to 16 years be­hind bars, with an ex­tended li­cence pe­riod of six years (later in­creased by the Court of Ap­peal to 20 years in jail, with an ex­tended li­cence of seven years).

He was also made the sub­ject of a sex­ual-harm pre­ven­tion or­der and made to sign the sex of­fend­ers reg­is­ter for life.

When I left court, my legs were like jelly, and I thought I was go­ing to vomit. Leighton had me fooled. When we were dat­ing, I’d thought he was a gen­uine bloke, a real gent. But he’d been lead­ing a dou­ble life.

When he was glued to his phone, he must have been mes­sag­ing his poor vic­tims.

Then, sec­onds later, he was cud­dling me on the sofa.

I feel so fool­ish to have ever fallen for him.

Leighton has ru­ined so many lives. I have night­mares about what he did to those chil­dren.

As far as I’m con­cerned, he doesn’t de­serve to see the light of day again.


Paul Leighton A string of truly shock­ing of­fences

He was al­ways tex­ting...

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