January 2023

Beach trip abuser jailed for 18 years

A car dealer from Exeter who sexually abused three young boys after taking them on days out in Exmouth and Dawlish has been jailed for 18 years.

David Hargreaves won the trust and friendship of the teenagers by taking them to amusement arcades and on swimming trips but then persuaded them to take part in sex acts with him.

A judge told him he had no insight or remorse and had caused ‘deep and lasting’ psychological damage to the three victims, who were aged 12 to 15 at the time.

He also congratulated the victims for their courage in coming forward more than 20 years after they suffered the abuse in the 1990s.

Hargreaves abused two of the boys at a caravan or parked up cabin cruiser at his brother’s garage in Exeter and paid the third to allow him to touch him, leaving him feeling ‘like a prostitute’.

The boys were so ashamed of what they had done that they bottled it up for years before one of them went to the police in 2018 and a full inquiry revealed the full picture.

They all made video recorded interviews which revealed an identical pattern of grooming behaviour in which they were impressed by being given lifts in smart cars which Hargreaves had access to through his job at his brother’s garage and car lot.

None of them knew that he was already a convicted sex offender at the time he abused them between 1992 and 1997.

He had previous convictions for exposing himself to two 11-year-old boys and groping a 13-year-old girl in an empty ice cream hut in Exmouth.

One of his victims used his personal statement to tell say: ‘I hate you, David Hargreaves. I am a Christian, as best I can be, but I cannot forgive you for what you have done.’

Hargreaves, aged 61, previously of Exeter and Dunsford, but now of Braintree, Essex, denied nine counts of indecent assault or indecency but was found guilty by a jury at Exeter Crown Court.

He was jailed for 18 years with a five year extended licence and declared to be a dangerous offender by Recorder Mr Philip Mott, KC, at Exeter Crown Court.

He told Hargreaves: ‘The boys were all vulnerable because of their home circumstances and their age. The psychological effect on them was substantial and damaged their relationships with their families.

‘They have each struggled with feelings of guilt and shame, as is common with survivors of childhood abuse, and two have required help from mental health professionals. The psychological injury has been deep and lasting.

‘The victims are to be congratulated for their bravery in coming forward.

‘It took a lot of courage to speak up after so many years. Nothing can undo the damage this defendant has done to them but I hope the outcome of this case may help them to begin to move on.’

During the trial last year, the three victims, now adults, all told how they met Hargreaves when he was in his 30s and living in Whipton, Exeter.

Mr Daniel Pawson-Pounds, prosecuting, said: ‘Hargreaves befriended and groomed these boys, each of whom were vulnerable because of difficult domestic circumstances and family lives they were keen to escape.

‘There are very clear and strong similarities in the way he groomed each of them and moved from one to another. Such was his dominance that some of them for a time allowed him to what he wanted and to that extent, they consented.’

Hargreaves denied all the charges and said the boys had got together to concoct them. He said he had never paid them for sex and told the jury ‘I’m not some kind of monster’.