Teacher Guilty Of River Wandle Child Sex Offences

Man jailed for historic offences

A former primary school teacher has been convicted of 21 offences of historical sexual abuse against 20 children, with many taking place around the River Wandle.

Paul Cannon, aged 40, from Coulsden Road, Coulsden, was jailed for four years at Croydon Crown court today (May 27).

The court heard that the offences took place in areas of Merton, Sutton and Carshalton between 1999 and 2009, usually at weekends or in school holidays and in parks and open spaces, with the River Wandle often featuring.

Victims reported that Cannon often wore sunglasses, regardless of the weather, and rode a mountain bike.

In a number of instances Cannon approached the victims - who were mainly female, and aged between six and 13 years - engaged them in conversation by asking them for directions to a specific location, and asked them in particular whether they knew if there were any toilets nearby.

On a number of occasions he then asked them if he could take inappropriate pictures of them in exchange for money. In some cases he then proceeded to sexually assault the victims.

The incidents were subject to investigation in 2006 following the identification of a linked series of offences against children from 2001. Under Operation Rayban, inquiries carried out by officers led to the retrieval of two separate DNA samples from two separate victims, which whilst identical, were unable to identify any link to a suspect on the DNA database as Cannon had not previously been arrested or come to the notice of police.

It was in 2012 when a 24-year-old woman came forward and reported that an individual by the name of 'Paul' had been responsible for taking indecent images of her and a second female in his role as assistant at a Croydon youth club that a further investigation was prompted.

The offence had taken place some 13 years previously, but the victim had been encouraged to report the matter following a discussion with a friend after the publicity surrounding the sexual abuse at the hands of Jimmy Savile.

As a result of her allegation, officers conducted various investigations which ultimately led to them identifying Cannon, who was subsequently arrested at his home address on March 17, 2013.

As part of inquiries, a DNA sample was taken which, when inputted into the system, established a direct hit to the DNA samples previously retained in connection with Operation Rayban.

Officers then conducted various and detailed inquiries to trace additional victims. Their work led to the identity of at least 19 further victims - all of whom had been subjected to offences at the hands of Cannon.

As a result of searches at Cannon's home address more than 4,000 indecent images and movies of children were recovered - from Level 1 through to Level 5. Further images were also found of park areas and swimming pool changing rooms which reinforced suspicions Cannon was and is a serial and prolific offender.

Cannon worked at various schools within Surrey and West Sussex. There are no reports at this time of any offences committed in his capacity as a teacher.

DS Nick Troon, from the Sexual Offences, Exploitation and Child Abuse Command said: "I would like to thank all of the victims in this case and commend them for their bravery in assisting us in bringing Cannon to justice for his crimes. A prolific offender, he no doubt thought that given the passage of time he was unlikely to ever be held accountable for his actions.

"The victim who came forward most recently, leading to Cannon's identification, was prompted to do so on the back of the Jimmy Savile coverage. This is a clear indication of the effect of recent high profile cases in encouraging victims to have the confidence to report historical allegations, in the knowledge they will be listened to. This is reflected in the fact that over the last 12 months we have seen an increase of 1436 allegations of sexual abuse reported to the Metropolitan Police Service.

"I hope today's result will encourage other victims to come forward and report allegations, regardless of the passage of time and nature of the offence.

"We will continue to work with our partners, including the CPS and NSPCC, to bring cases such as these to court and provide the relevant and necessary support to victims.

"I believe there may well be further victims of Cannon out there and would encourage anyone who recognises him in connection with offences to report the matter to police."

+ Anyone with information is asked to call DS Nick Troon or DC Becky Collins on 0208 217 6431 or 0208 217 6430.

May 27, 2014

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Paul Cannon