“Determined, manipulative, with entrenched paedophiliac tendencies.”
Those were the words used by Judge Richard Mansell QC to describe predatory paedophile Paul Boardman.
Boardman, 55, was jailed for 22 years yesterday for horrific sex offences against young boys throughout the 1990s.
For more than two decades, the Preston lorry driver kept his victims quiet through shame and fear.
But last year, in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal, one of his victims came forward opening up the web of abuse perpetrated by Boardman.
Boardman was a known paedophile. Born and raised in Stoke-on-Trent he was brought to Preston to serve a sentence at HMP Preston for sex offences against teenage boys in the 1970s. At the end of his sentence - in a time before the sex offenders’ register and safeguarding laws, the predatory child abuser was released into the community to prey upon schoolboys from his two bedroom flat in Ingol.
“By 1990 you were well practiced in the paedophile’s art of grooming”, said Judge Mansell, as he passed sentence at Manchester Crown Court.
But Boardman’s victims knew nothing about his past, seeing the former window cleaner as a friend who would buy them cigarettes and alcohol and let them play on the fruit machine he kept in his living room.
“It was like he was a friend or something. He was pally. He wasn’t aggressive. He never lost his temper. He just seemed at ease with himself. He just seemed to me to be a nice bloke who used to buy me fags. He never physically hurt me. Well, he mentally hurt me by doing all that stuff.”
Many of the boys had troubled backgrounds. Some were teenage runaways, others suffered neglect at the hands of alcoholic parents and some had learning and behavioural difficulties.
All were under 12 years old when Boardman began to abuse them from the flat he kept secured behind a locked metal gate.
“I still have nightmares about that red gate”, said one man, who was giving evidence by videolink more than 15 years after he was abused.
The court heard Boardman would offer the boys cigarettes or trips to Blackpool, Alton Towers or into the Lancashire countryside. Some were taken on camping trips and others on holidays.
But although many of his victims were separated by distance and time, the men gave accounts which painted a picture of a man who showed no shame or fear of the offences he committed.
One boy, who lived in South Ribble, described how Boardman would collect him in the lorry he used to deliver fruit and vegetables and park up behind the Capitol Centre where he would abuse him before dropping him off at school.
Some of the boy’s parents knew Boardman. One woman spoke of her “devastation” when her son asked to move in to his flat, after Boardman promised him a better life - better than his single mum could provide.
“My mum always warned me not to take sweets off a stranger but I didn’t think he was a stranger - he was one of my mum’s friends, so I took sweets off him and I got in his car,” he told the court.
Last year, Boardman’s web of abuse began to unravel as his victims started to speak out against him.
In June 2012, one man - who was serving a prison sentence at a secure psychiatric unit - made a complaint against Boardman.
Six months later, days before Christmas, another man picked up the telephone outside a police station in South Ribble in the early hours of the morning, and told the operator; “I need to speak to someone. There’s all this stuff going round about Jimmy Savile. It’s doing my head in.”
As names of other potential victims emerged, officers traced the men - many of whom were serving prisoners - telling them only that they were investigating Boardman and revealing nothing about the complaints made by others.
In the years that had passed the boys lives - many already troubled - spiralled into drug abuse, mental illness and crime. One man told the court he now has ulcers to his stomach after taking repeated overdoses.
“He’s the only reason I’ve been to prison,” he said.
In 2000, one of the victims reported Boardman to the police, but after being convicted of robbery and sent to prison, he heard nothing more and proceedings against Boardman ground to a halt.
Boardman was finally arrested in February last but while on bail pending further enquiries, a teenager who called at his home claimed he had been sexually assaulted by him.
Boardman was immediately remanded in custody.
From behind bars, he plotted to pervert the course of justice, writing letters and making telephone calls to create the illusion he was having an intimate relationship with a woman the court heard was a lesbian, and that she had been at his home on the night of the allegation.
A 13-year-old boy, who had also been at the house, was coached to repeat the lies to police officers when he was interviewed.
A chilling recording of a telephone call made from prison was played to the jury, in which Boardman gently chastised the youngster when he got it wrong and promised him bike rides on his release from prison.
Boardman, formerly of Bray Street, Ashton, pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice as he stood trial - admitting to the jury he had lied.
But as he sat in the witness box facing the jury he repeated his lies that the boys had never visited his flat, had never been abused and were jumping on the “compensation bandwagon.”
But the jury saw through his lies and convicted the pervert unanimously on all 43 counts of sexual abuse, ranging from indecent assault to rape.
After Boardman was led to the cells to begin his sentence, Judge Mansell commended the men who gave evidence against their abuser.
He said: “I hope this will provide closure for them on what has been a very difficult thing to deal with, and I hope they take comfort in the fact they have proetcted young boys for years to come.”