i wish he’d been unfaithful…
She worried her boyfriend was cheating, then Rachel, 37, discovered that his sickening secrets were far, far worse...
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?
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...