Stansted man is jailed for sex offences against children

A MAN who admitted more than 30 sexual offences against children was jailed for a minimum of six and a half years when he appeared at Chelmsford Crown Court today, (Wednesday February 3).Stephen Wooding, 36, a gardener and South African national, who had

A MAN who admitted more than 30 sexual offences against children was jailed for a minimum of six and a half years when he appeared at Chelmsford Crown Court today, (Wednesday February 3).

Stephen Wooding, 36, a gardener and South African national, who had lived in the Stansted area, was charged with 14 counts of sexually assaulting two children aged under 13, and 20 counts involving indecent images of children.

He was imprisoned for public protection to serve a minimum of six and a half years before being considered for parole.

He was also made the subject of a sexual offences prevention order to run indefinitely and will also be deported to South Africa once released form prison.


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On January 27, 2008, Essex Police received a report from a woman that Wooding, had been sexually assaulting her two children. He had left the property that they shared that same day.

Investigation

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Essex Police started an investigation into these serious allegations and enquiries were made to trace and arrest Wooding. These were to prove lengthy and at times extremely frustrating.

Essex officers were in possession of his passport, the South African authorities were alerted of our interest and an all-ports bulletin sent out in an attempt to prevent Wooding leaving the UK.

Dc Barry Lyden, who at the time was a member of Harlow Child Abuse Investigation Unit, said: "There was a fear that Wooding would return to his native South Africa which may prove difficult in getting him back. Equally we were concerned that if he remained in the UK he may "lose himself" and potentially place other children at risk."

International enquiries led to Wooding being traced and arrested in South Africa in December 2008, some 12 months after the initial report was made to police.

Dc Lyden then embarked on the lengthy process of getting Wooding extradited back to the UK and following court appearances and close, regular contact between Essex Police, Crown Prosecution Service, Government Offices and the South African authorities this culminated in Wooding being flown back from South Africa in April 2009.

He was collected and escorted back to the UK by Essex police officers and with some close liaison with the Immigration Department at Heathrow he was taken to Harlow police station where he was charged with the 34 offences.

"Dangerous sex offender"

He remained in custody until sentencing today.

Dc Lyden, who now works with the Public Protection Unit at Harlow, said: "This has been a lengthy investigation culminating in the capture and conviction of a dangerous sex offender.

"Despite his obvious attempts to evade capture from the authorities we have shown that how ever far away you think you are you will not escape justice when Essex Police officers are after you.

"We are extremely grateful to all parties involved in ensuring that Wooding would face justice, but a special thanks go to Detective Captain Colin Morris and Detective Sgt Surin Pillay of the Fugitive Extradition Unit in Pretoria who co-ordinated things their end and was of great assistance."

Ds Steve Jones, of the Child Abuse Investigation Unit at Harlow, said: "This has been a very difficult period for the family and we have maintained very regular contact throughout.

"Visits to the children have been made by trained officers and integrated support has been put in place to enable them to deal with these traumatic events and put their lives back together.

"They have been extremely strong and shown tremendous courage and resilience throughout. We and they are extremely happy with the outcome.

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