Two retired officers with the Metropolitan Police officers have admitted possession of thousands of child abuse images after a “lengthy and complex” investigation which was linked to a third officer who apparently committed suicide rather than face charges.
Jeremy Laxton, 63, who now lives in Lincolnshire, and Jack Addis, 63, from Perthshire in Scotland, admitted the charges during a hearing at Southwark Crown Court in London on Thursday and will be sentenced later in the year.
A third officer who was under suspicion, Richard Watkinson, 49, was found dead at his home in Prince’s Risborough, Buckinghamshire, in January, on the same day he was due to be charged with conspiracy to distribute or show indecent images of children, three counts of making indecent photos of a child, voyeurism, and two counts of misconduct in public office.
At the time Watkinson was the West Area Command Unit’s chief inspector in charge of neighbourhood policing in west London.
Laxton pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute or show indecent images of children, three counts of making indecent photos of a child, possession of prohibited images of a child, possession of extreme pornographic images, and intentionally encouraging or assisting an offence of misconduct in a public office.
He was released on conditional bail ahead of the sentencing hearing.
Addis—who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute or show indecent images of children—appeared by video link from Dumfries prison in Scotland, where he is serving an 18-month sentence for three counts of voyeurism and possessing indecent photographs of a child.
Commander Jon Savell, the Metropolitan Police’s head of professionalism, said: “The content that these men had been viewing has been described by seasoned specialist investigators as some of the most serious that they had ever seen.”
‘Sexual Gratification From Suffering’
“We must never forget that in each video or picture is a real child victim who has suffered unimaginable abuse. The effects of child sexual abuse are often traumatic and life-long, and Laxton and Addis both sought sexual gratification from that suffering,” Savell added.
He said: “As a police service we strive to protect the most vulnerable members of society, especially children, and I know officers who served with them will feel utterly betrayed by their disgusting actions. We are sickened that they are former colleagues.”
The convictions of Laxton and Addis followed a complex investigation by the Met in partnership with Police Scotland and Lincolnshire Police.
Laxton was first arrested in September 2021 and Addis two months later. Their homes were searched and thousands of child abuse images were found on the hard drives which the pair had concealed in their homes.
Detectives found 2,516 images and videos graded as Category A, which is the most serious level of violence and sexual abuse, as well as 1,032 Category B images and videos and 1,701 Category C.
Laxton had his own collection over 6,000 Category A, 4,039 Category B and 3,597 Category C images and videos.
Earlier this year The Sun reported that when Watkinson when arrested and his home searched in July 2021 a hard drive containing his stash of child abuse images was hidden behind a trapdoor.
He was suspended from duty and released on bail and was duty to return on Jan. 12 this year, when he would have been charged. But he was found dead the same day.
In a statement released on Thursday, the Met said: “As part of the same investigation, charges had also been authorised against a then-serving officer attached to the West Area Command Unit, Chief Inspector Richard Watkinson.”
Coroner to Investigate Watkinson Death
Commenting on Watkinson’s death, the Met said: “This matter is led by Thames Valley Police, who are treating the death as unexplained but not suspicious, and are preparing a file for the coroner. We will provide every assistance while that process is ongoing.”
Watkinson’s death and the charging of two retired officers come only days after David Carrick, a serving Metropolitan Police officer, admitted to 49 offences, including 24 rape charges against 12 women over the space of 20 years.
Carrick had served as an armed officer in the same Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command as Wayne Couzens, who was given a whole life sentence.
Carrick was later jailed for life, with a minimum term of 30 years.
The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Mark Rowley, has promised to root out “corrupting behaviours” in the force after a series of scandals which led to the resignation of his predecessor, Cressida Dick.
Savell said he shared the public’s “deep disappointment” in the conduct of Laxton, Addis and Watkinson and added: “The commissioner has set out how the Met will achieve its mission for more trust, less crime and high standards over the next two years through the turnaround plan. A draft plan has been published and, following further consultation, will be finalised soon. The plan is clear on the need for us to get the basics right to better serve Londoners.”