Man jailed for 29 years after being convicted of historic child sex offences
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A man who abused children for around 50 years has been sentenced to 29 years behind bars today (24 May), after being found guilty of 40 counts of historic sex offences following two trials at Croydon Crown Court.
Stephen Henry Walker, 68, formerly of Chipstead Lane, Lower Kingswood, Tadworth, was found guilty of 40 charges of sexual assaults relating to 15 victims, both boys and girls, following the conclusion of the second trial.
Statements from a number of the victims involved were read out in court. One victim spoke of the “severe and prolonged psychological harm” suffered as a result of Walker’s offending, including a serious attempt to take her own life.
Another spoke about the severe depression he had suffered as a result of the abuse and the “profound and significantly detrimental effect on my mental health for most of my life”, while another described himself as having “lived a life of torture which leaves me a broken man today relying on the care of services, my parents and medication”.
Following Walker’s conviction in March, another victim said “a weight had been lifted”, and said that he was “less anxious and able to sleep for eight hours rather than being awake half the night”.
Walker was found guilty of 33 counts of sexual assault following the first trial which started on 4 January and lasted over seven weeks. The jury came back with a unanimous verdict after deliberating for just three hours.
The jury also returned a unanimous guilty verdict on a further seven counts of sexual assault following the second trial which started on 8 March.
An investigation into Walker’s offending was launched after one of the victims came forward in March 2018.
As the enquiries progressed, the scale of Walker’s offending, and his strong sexual interest in children, particularly boys (although two of the victims were girls), soon became apparent. The offences included sexual assaults, gross indecency with children, inciting a child to commit an act of gross indecency, as well as offences of attempted buggery and buggery of some of the children.
Walker, who worked as a salesman and was also a police officer with the Metropolitan Police for a brief period, was also a coach for a number of children’s football teams, where he met some of the victims, while others were children he knew through family friends.
Although the majority of the offences were committed in Surrey, Walker also abused children in France and Malta and other locations outside of the UK jurisdiction.
Once the full extent of Walker’s abuse started to come to light, he fled to Malta where he lived under an alias.
He returned to the UK in October 2019 and was subsequently arrested on suspicion of child sex offences. Two days later, he was charged and remanded into custody due to the serious risk he posed to children, as well as being a flight risk having previously fled the country.
A team from Surrey Police’s Complex Abuse Unit then worked relentlessly to locate other potential victims and witnesses in order to obtain as much as evidence as possible. This resulted in a large number of victims being identified and led to further charges being laid against Walker while he was on remand.
During the investigation, the team also had to provide support to a large numbers of victims and witnesses, made all the more challenging due to the pandemic that also resulted in the delay of the trials, which also impacted on the victims.
Detective Constable Emma Gibson from the Complex Abuse Unit said: “I would like to pay tribute to the victims and witnesses in this case for their commitment and resilience throughout the investigation. Without their support and patience we would not have been able to bring Stephen Walker to justice.
“The trial was delayed by several months and heard during a very unsettling time for all due to the coronavirus pandemic. All involved demonstrated true strength and courage in giving their evidence and I hope today’s result brings them some validity and closure, as well as some sense of justice after all these years of having to live with what he did to them.”
Detective Inspector Paddy Mayers from the Complex Abuse Unit, said: “Walker was a vile sexual predator who used his position as a football coach, trusted member of the community and friend, to gain access to children and then seriously abuse them for his own gratification. The scale of his offending, which went unchallenged for years, cannot be underestimated.
“I would also like to thank all those involved in the investigation for their hard work and dedication under extremely trying circumstances, with not only a huge number of victims and witnesses, but also the substantial delays to the trial as a result of the pandemic.
“I hope that Walker’s conviction sends a clear message that we will always do everything we can to ensure allegations of sexual abuse are investigated thoroughly and that we will leave no stone unturned to get to the truth.”