April 2001

Paedophile jailed for 10 years

A former swimming instructor who abused dozens of young children in care has been jailed for 10 years.

William Hook, 63, from Great Yarmouth, was sentenced at Kingston Crown Court following a police investigation into the sexual abuse of 200 children at south London care homes.

He had earlier pleaded guilty to 26 charges of sexual abuse, ranging from indecent assault to serious sexual assaults, on boys aged between 10 and 16.

The court heard how Hook, a former soldier, singled out vulnerable youngsters and lured them with gifts, including bicycles, diving watches and cassette players, while he was working as a swimming instructor at four south London homes between 1970 and 1978.

Shrine to boys

During this time he forced his victims, four of whom have since attempted suicide, to take their lessons without wearing trunks.

He told one victim he would be mutilated and sold as a white sex slave to the Arabs if he did not succumb to his sexual desires.

A joint investigation, code-named Operation Middleton, by the Metropolitan police and Lambeth Council, resulted in 200 victims coming forward.

Following Hook’s arrest two years ago detectives found a cupboard which had been turned into a shrine to boys complete with altar and photographs of children.

Children who were systematically abused by Hook remembered him for his nicotine-stained fingers and long, spiky fingernails.

Sally O’Neill QC, prosecuting, said Hook preyed on youngsters who were keen athletes or capable swimmers by offering them “special coaching”.

One victim told the court how Hook promised him he would become a faster runner if he allowed him to sexually abuse him and another victim, aged just 13, was taken to a pub and plied with strong lager before being sexually abused by Hook, who said he was practising massage techniques.

Another victim told the court how Hook would creep into his dormitory and abuse him and also assault him in the cubicle at the side of the pool.

‘Shattered lives’

Sentencing Hook to 10 years imprisonment Judge Kenneth MacCray said: “This is a sordid tale of depravity, self-gratification and corruption.

“You robbed children of their innocence by embarking upon classic grooming techniques.

“You bought their affections or made them fearfully reliant on or submissive to you.

“It is said that 23 years have passed and you have not re-offended in that period but your victims have had to live with their memories of what you did to them most probably for every day that has passed, filled with self-doubt, lack of self esteem and unjustified self-blame.

“One can only hope that now they can begin to repair their shattered lives.”

Police are continuing their investigations into the abuse and have appealed for other victims to come forward.

Detective Superintendent Andy Kay said: “The police are determined that all allegations of abuse will be investigated with the same standard of sensitivity and professionalism that has been shown in this inquiry.”

Between 1974 and 1994 Lambeth Council were responsible for a total of 7,003 young people in 35 care homes.

The last home was closed in 1994 following concerns about the quality of care.