July 2021

Hollyoaks abuse storyline helped snare sick snooker champion who groomed boys on trips

One of the victims of a disgraced snooker and billiards champion only realised he had been groomed after watching a Hollyoaks storyline.

John Hartley used his position to groom young boys leading to ” sexualised behaviour “.

Hartley, from Eston, Middlesbrough, targeted teenagers he met through coaching and slept naked in bed with them during hotel stays across the country.

The paedophile on one occasion carried out a sex act on a gym shower room floor after showing his victim pornography on an iPad

The European billiards champion manipulated young boys with “alcohol and poppers” at his flat and “freely exposed himself” to his victims. He was ranked fifth in the world and European champion during his 20 years career.

Hartley hid cameras in his home, with one disguised as an air freshener, to take images of the males.

One of his victims explained how he was “in awe of Hartley” due to his prestigious titles in snooker and billiards but said “the penny dropped” after watching a Hollyoaks abuse storyline involving a football coach.

The 42-year-old admitted a string of child sex offences at Teesside Crown Court on Monday

Hartley, of Windsor Road, Eston, appeared in the dock, wearing a black suit and white shirt, to stand trial.

However, before the trial began Hartley pleaded guilty to seven child sex offences which happened several years ago.

Three male victims cannot be named for legal reasons.

Hartley was previously a director of the English Association of Snooker and Billiards and competed for England in the World Billiards Championship in India in 2003.

Prosecutor Shaun Dodds told how Hartley used his position as a snooker and billiards coach to groom youngsters.

The first victim was around 14 when they first met and he received snooker coaching for a number of years.

Hartley would take boys around the country for tournaments, often staying in hotels.

The Middlesbrough court heard how he used those opportunities to groom his victims.

Mr Dodds told how there were around 20 to 30 occasions over a two year period when Hartley carried out the “sexualised behaviour”.

He shared a bed in hotel rooms and his Saltburn home with the boys, “sleeping naked” and “freely exposing himself”.

The prosecutor said Hartley would also give the children “alcohol and poppers” at his flat.

The first victim told of one occasion where he, along with two other boys, slept at Hartley’s flat prior to an Alton Towers trip where he slept naked in bed with them.

He also recalled the incident in the shower area of a gym after the pair had played tennis together in Redcar.

Mr Dodds also told of a separate incident in Hartley’s flat in Saltburn where he shared a bed with the boy.

Again, Hartley showed the child pornography and was carrying out a sex act which the victim said was “not unusual” and he would “usually turn away”.

However, the pervert told him “to do it as well and he enjoyed it before”.

The victim said he was “embarrassed” but the “incident didn’t last very long”.

In relation to the voyeurism charge, the incident related to Hartley’s Hartlepool home where he had taken a naked picture of the same victim in the shower room.

The court heard how the victim was not aware of Hartley recording him.

The concealed camera disguised as an “air freshener” also covertly captured another male – described as “late teens or early twenties” – “urinating into the toilet”.

It was later revealed he visited Hartley’s home to watch a football match on two occasions and “unaware he was being recorded”.

Cleveland Police officers arrested Hartley at his Hartlepool address and seized a Sony camcorder.

Teesside Crown Court heard details of a video on the device showing Hartley naked and a boy in his bed.

In interview, the defendant confirmed he had two concealed cameras but said it was due to him spending “lengthy periods of time” away from home and “in case anyone broke in”.

He added “the cleaner must have moved it into the bathroom.”

Hartley accepted that he had watched pornography with the child but said it wasn’t for “sexual gratification” but because he “thought it was funny”.

He later accepted that is was “inappropriate”.

Hartley also admitted having “poppers in the flat” and allowing “young lads to have them”.

In court, Hartley admitted:

  • causing a child to watch a sexual act – “to look at an image of a person engaging in a sexual act” – for sexual gratification;

  • causing or inciting a child, a second underage boy, to engage in sexual activity;

  • engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child for sexual gratification;

  • voyeurism, each recording a person doing a private act, for sexual gratification without their consent

The judge jailed Hartley for four and a half years as well as making him subject to notification requirements and a sexual harm prevention order for life.