March 2009

Convicted paedophile raped 12-year-old boy at former crime scene, despite being on Sex Offenders register

A convicted paedophile raped a boy of 12 in the same spot as he had struck 16 years earlier.

Craig Bennett, 45, was on the Sex Offenders register after raping a boy in a field in 1993.

He was subject to checks on his address by police.

But between those checks he struck again, concocting a story about a missing dog and asking a youngster for help.

He took the boy to the same field and launched a ‘depraved and disturbing attack’.

The child, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had been playing outside, but left his friend to buy a chocolate bar from a shop, Preston Crown Court heard.

He saw two men in a car driving slowly as though they were looking for a dog  –  and a third man who spoke to them at a bus stop.

The boy said he offered to help the man in his search and was later offered £10 to carry on looking.

The pair went to a wooded area of the field, which was nearby, but as darkness fell, the child said he would have to go.

When he tried to leave, Bennett pounced. Using the boy’s belt, he tied his hands behind his back, then wrapped it round his neck so hard that his eyes haemorrhaged.

‘Don’t bother running or shouting ‘cos you can shout and then you could be dead in two minutes,’ he told his victim. Afterwards, Bennett smoked a cigarette  –  then left.

The victim, who thought he would die, managed to make his way to a road and flag down a vehicle which took him home.

The boy told the jury: ‘I always help to find animals and dogs that have run away. He didn’t mention the money until later. I was just looking for the dog.

‘I nearly got away. I ran to the fence but he pulled me back. That’s when he strangled me. When I got the chance I ran, but he got me back and tied my hands behind my back.

‘I felt scared. I thought I was never going to see my family again.’

Tim Brennand, prosecuting, said: ‘Bennett is a highly dangerous and predatory paedophile. He stalked a small, physically vulnerable boy and engaged his victim in a complete charade, calculated and designed to engineer circumstances whereby he could attack his prey when alone and away from other people.

‘Such was the ferocity of the attack that the defendant himself thought that there was every chance he had murdered the boy.

‘This offence, in daylight, required forethought, planning, cunning, charm, guile  –  and a willingness to resort to extreme violence, in order to satiate his perverted and grotesque fantasy in the abduction and abuse of a young boy.

‘There never was a missing dog. It was designed to enable the defendant to manipulate his victim and steer him away from people, away from shops and away from houses.

To allow him to attack the boy without his cries for help being heard.’

Officers tracked Bennett down after seeing CCTV footage showing him walk into a shop with his victim before the attack. They recognised him from the ‘sex offenders’ board’ at the police station.

Just two months before the attack, officers had carried out a sex offenders address check at Bennett’s home, in Darwen, Lancashire.

He was on the Sex Offenders register following an attack on a 13-year-old boy in 1993. Then, Bennett had approached the child and spoken to him about football, before assaulting him.

After being freed from jail, he fled his probation hostel in 2000.

Yesterday, Bennett, also known as Craig Preece, was facing life in prison after being convicted of kidnap, kidnap with intent to commit a sexual offence, two counts of rape and one count of threats to kill.

Judge Pamela Badley told the court that the case had been ‘very difficult’ for the jury to listen to.

Detective Sergeant Ian Procter, of Lancashire Police, said: ‘These appalling offences were committed against a trusting and innocent young boy, who was tricked by Bennett into going with him on the pretence of searching for his dog. The subsequent sexual assault was wicked and cruel. The young boy has shown remarkable courage and resilience. He is recovering from his ordeal, supported by a loving family.

‘Bennett is a dangerous, manipulative, shameless individual who clearly presents a significant risk to children.

‘I trust that he will remain in custody for a long time and not be released until such time he is no longer deemed to be a risk of harm.’

The boy’s father told the court how his son had been affected.

‘You would have had to have known him to know how different he is now. He doesn’t do a lot of the stuff that he used to. He won’t go out to play.’

The defendant, who married his gay partner in a civil ceremony, will be sentenced next month.