2002

Honour for council worker who caught sex pest

Paedophile Christopher Harden (pictured)

A COUNCIL gardener has been honoured by a judge for overpowering a dangerous sex offender who had just carried out a knifepoint attack on a schoolboy.

Hero Lee Gannon (31), who is more used to tending rose bushes and keeping the bowling greens tidy, chased pervert Christopher Harden after seeing him drag the 13-year-old victim into the bushes,

The father-of-three then held on to Harden until police arrived at Copster Park, Oldham.

Police inquiries later revealed that only 15 minutes before the attack, in April this year, the 47-year-old pervert had been looking at child pornography images on the Internet.

He was jailed for 31/2 years for indecent assault and child pornography charges in October. Det Sgt Gary Cropper, who led the investigation, said: “This was a particularly terrifying experience for the young boy, and the assistance of Mr Gannon was vital. Without his intervention the attack would have continued.”

Mr Gannon was yesterday invited to Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester, for a special ceremony where he was honoured for his bravery by the trial judge and the High Sheriff of Greater Manchester, Peter Mallick.

Judge Timothy Mort said: “You played a vital part protecting the boy from a more serious assault and worked very hard to bring this man to justice.

“You acted with great presence of mind and, by your public-spirited actions, ensured that an offender who had committed a serious crime was arrested.

“This court, on behalf of the public at large, expresses gratitude for your prompt reaction in assisting a victim of crime.

“And after seeing pictures of the park, the Royal Horticultural Society should give you a commendation as well.”

The incident happened after Harden, a married father-of-one, went to the park and began talking to the boy. He asked him if he wanted to earn some money, before producing a knife and forcing him to unzip his trousers.

The boy ran away but Harden chased him and dragged him into some bushes. It was then that Lee realised something sinister was going on.

Lee, a gardener with Oldham Council for 4 and a half years, said: “When I first spotted the man and boy I thought it was father and son and didn’t take much notice, but then I saw Harden dragging the boy into some bushes.

“I went over and he jumped out with the lad, so I asked the boy if he was OK. He said the man had tried to do something and I realised what was going on.

“I chased and caught him and rang the police on my mobile. I had to keep him there until officers arrived and all the time he was shouting that he had done nothing wrong.”

At court, Harden pleaded guilty to five charges of making indecent images of children and was convicted of the indecent assault by the jury.