Two retired Scotland Yard officers have admitted being members of a police paedophile ring with a serving chief inspector, who was found dead on the day he was due in court.
Jack Addis, 63, and Jeremy Laxton, 62, pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court on Thursday to a charge of conspiring with Richard Watkinson, 49, to distribute or show indecent images of children.
Watkinson, who was a serving Metropolitan Police chief inspector, had been due to appear in court on Jan 12, to answer a string of charges.
But when he failed to appear, police went to his home in Buckinghamshire where they discovered his body.
His death is being treated as unexplained but not suspicious and an inquest has opened and adjourned.
According to the charge, the three men conspired to “distribute or show indecent images of children to each other” between Jan 1 2018 and July 10 2021.
The images, which were found on a computer hard drive, included 2,516 in Category A – the worst kind – with 1,032 in Category B and 1,701 in Category C.
Addis appeared at Southwark Crown Court via video-link from HMP Dumfries, south Scotland, where he has been serving an 18-month sentence for three counts of voyeurism and possession of indecent photographs of a child. He was jailed in October 2022.
Laxton, who remains on bail, had previously admitted the similar images offences at Lincolnshire magistrates’ court in August 2021.
On Thursday, Laxton also admitted three counts of making indecent photographs of a child, one count of possession of a prohibited image, one count of possessing an extreme pornographic image, one count of intentionally encouraging or assisting the commission of an offence and one count of possessing a controlled class B drug.
He further admitted a charge of intentionally encouraging or assisting the commission of the offence of misconduct in a public office between Dec 1 2019 and May 1 2021.
He was arrested in September 2021 while Addis was arrested two months later as part of the multi-force investigation.
Prosecutor Edward Franklin previously said: “Police found indecent images of children on a number of devices.
“The Metropolitan Police investigation found a great number of category A images, still and moving, which could be best described at the high end of category A.
“Officers found a hard drive, and that is the centre of conspiracy charge where all three defendants were bringing in material to be shared on to it.”
Before Watkinson’s death, Commander Jon Savell, of the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards, said: “Chief Inspector Watkinson was facing extremely serious and concerning charges, as the result of a painstaking and thorough police investigation.
“Before this matter came to light, we had no previous information about these allegations or to indicate the officer posed any risk to the public. He had not faced any other criminal or conduct matters during his Met career. He had been suspended from duty since his arrest.”
Judge Tony Baumgartner adjourned sentencing to a date to be fixed and granted Laxton conditional bail ahead of the next hearing on June 23.
‘Lengthy sentence inevitable’
His bail conditions include residence at his home address, to surrender his passport and not to apply for documents to travel outside of England and Wales, that he has no contact with children apart from named family members, and to inform police of any digital devices.
A further hearing to decide if a High Court Judge is available to preside over Laxton and Addis’ case will take place on June 23 2023 at Southwark Crown Court.
A sentencing hearing will be set after that date and will take place before September this year.