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Andrew Whiddett, with his second wife Lani leaving Croydon Crown Court on April 23
A disgraced former senior Army officer was jailed today for asking mothers in the Philippines to sexually abuse their children in front of him on webcam.
Andrew Whiddett, 70, of Portsmouth, had served in the forces with distinction for 30 years and ‘dedicated his life to the country’ before moving into security in the Middle East – including working at the British Embassy in Baghdad.
But sentencing Whiddett to three years and two months behind bars, a judge told the former lieutenant colonel that he was going to jail despite ‘exceptional testimonials’ from former colleagues.
Judge Nicholas Ainley said: ‘I have borne in mind and I’m well aware of the dedicated service to this country by the defendant.
But children, wherever they are in the world, have to be protected from this kind of activity.
‘This is a 70-year-old man who has been a dedicated and courageous man to this country, a devoted husband and father left bereft by being widowed a few years ago – and also somebody who has abused two young Filipino children.
‘There is no getting around that particular fact.
Children who are in danger have to be protected from those who would engage in any sexual activity with them and particular individuals have to be punished by way of imprisonment.’
Croydon Crown Court heard that Whiddett was brought to the attention of authorities after sending more than £9,000 to ‘known facilitators’ in the Philippines between February 2013 and June 2017.
Officers from the National Crime Agency (NCA), Britain’s equivalent to the FBI, seized his phone, iPad and laptop in October 2017 and unearthed 19 indecent images of children – as well as horrifying Skype chats detailing child abuse.
Andrew Whiddett, who was once chief of security at the British embassy in Iraq, leaves Croydon Crown Court in London on April 25 (left) and is pictured in a mugshot (right)
In a chat with a user called ‘Honest Girl’, a woman told Whiddett: ‘She’s nine years old, her birthday is tomorrow’ and Whiddett made a crude comment about the child.
He then sent the woman just over £30 after messaging her a series of commands of how to abuse the child on November 21, 2015.
Whiddett, who has since married an Indonesian woman he met online, pleaded guilty to six charges before his trial was due to start.
The father-of-three was jailed for one count of intent to cause a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity relating to the chat with ‘Honest Girl’ in 2015.
He also admitted causing or inciting a child under the age of 16 to engage in sexual activity in September 2016, arranging or facilitating a sexual offence against a child, and three counts of having indecent images of children.
Prosecutor Amanda Hamilton said: ‘Between February 15, 2013 and June 29, 2017 Mr Whiddett sent over £9,000 to the Phillipines.
‘The Crown don’t say what most of that money was for. The Crown know that Mr Whiddett had a relationship with a woman in the Philippines. Three of the women to whom money was sent where known facilitators.
‘On October 31, 2017, Mr Whiddett was arrested as he arrived into Heathrow Airport.
He was interviewed; he said he was a widower and had been since 2013.
‘He had been in the Army for, I believe, 30 years until 1997 and worked for security companies in the Middle East.
‘He said he paid for live-streaming of sexual content with adult women in the Philippines who he met on a website called Cherry Blossom.’
She added that he said he watched women take off their clothes and perform sex acts, and was not aware of any illegal images on his devices.
Ms Hamilton said: ‘He said he searched for young Asian girls but he meant girls between 18 and 20, not children.’
The court heard during a Skype chat with ‘Honest Girl’ in November 2015, Whiddett used a fake name of Nick Nicholls and asked a mother to abuse her child.
Although video footage was never found, the typed messages where recovered and the woman indicated she was with her nine-year-old daughter.
Ms Hamilton said: ‘Mr Whiddett’s responses indicate he accepted what she told him about the age of the child as he made comments about her body,
‘He typed responses such as ‘wow’ and ‘wish could meet in real’ and that he wished she lived in Manilla as it’s easier to visit.
‘He said he was ‘hard’ and told her to touch the child and asked if he could show the child his genitals.’
The charge of inciting or causing a child under the age of 16 to engage in sexual activity and another of arranging or facilitating a sexual offence relates to the daughter of a Philippines woman Whiddett had been in a relationship with, the court heard.
It was said that Whiddett sent his girlfriend around £3,350 in 31 separate transactions which he later said ‘paid for her to have medical treatment, a hysterectomy and help her to finance a fruit store’.
The prosecutor continued: ‘On September 26, 2016 half an hour after midday, he started a chat under the name Nick Nicholls.
‘He asked if her daughter was ‘ready to watch’ and said the woman ‘had to teach her’.’
The court heard Whiddett wanted ‘everybody to be naked’ in the video chat and said of the woman’s daughter: ‘let her watch’.
In a series of messages after this, Whiddett is said to have asked for the girl to be ‘taught’ before he arrived in the country, which is the basis of the arranging and facilitating a sexual offence charge.
Ms Hamilton said: ‘He told her that her daughter needed to be talk more and he would like to see her genitals more.
He said she would need lots of teaching before he arrived and she needed to ‘open her mind’ with ‘lots of teaching’.
‘The crown say Mr Whiddett’s instructions showed a clear instruction the child should be groomed for later abuse.’
Whidett is also said to have flown to Manilla for two weeks in October 2016 from London Heathrow, but prosecutors did not have any physical evidence of child abuse taking place.
The images related to five category C images made on April 26, 2017, three category C images made on May 3, 2016 and three category B images made on the same date.
In mitigation, Whiddett’s barrister Siobhan Grey said her client had ‘given up his life’ for his country and was an ‘unusual case’.
She told the court Whiddett’s wife had died from an aggressive form of cancer in 2013 and he had turned to online dating because he was lonely – but was sucked into child porn.
She said: ‘There is no doubt that this man is ashamed and embarrassed and it took some time to confront his behaviour.
‘Theres a long list and the testimonials that date back to 1988 demonstrate the sacrifice, personal sacrifice, to his own life that this man made for his country.
‘This resulted in him being awarded an MBE in 1988, he then went on to be promoted to lieutenant colonel.
‘After he left the army in 1997, he later went to work for the Embassy out in Baghdad.
This is a man who has always put his life on the line for others.
‘Your honour will see the reference in July 2018 from the ambassador in Baghdad and all that is said about the defendant there.
‘What is unusual in this case is that this is a man who has led a hugely exceptional life until this offences began in 2015.
‘He had lost his wife of 40 years in September 2013 to an aggressive form of cancer.
And he was at a loss, adrift.
‘And he let it be known that he was fine but he wasn’t. And he was lonely. And he started to a great extent online dating and he got sucked into that.’
Judge Nicholas Ainley said despite evidence Whiddett had displayed ‘dedicated service’ to the country – he would still jail him.
He said: ‘The defendant had shown an interest in dating Asian woman. There is nothing wrong or reprehensible about that but some way or other that perfectly legitimate interest in meeting women changed into a need to have some form of sexual relationship with people who were only children.
‘And that occurred with two different children with whom I’m concerned.
‘I will not sentence on the basis that the defendant’s offending goes beyond what the prosecution have been able to establish.’
Whiddett was jailed for 38 months for one count of intent to cause a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity, one count of causing or inciting a child under the age of 16 to engage in sexual activity, one count of arranging or facilitating a sexual offence against a child and three counts of possessing indecent images of children.