A former police officer and children’s football coach convicted of multiple counts of sexual abuse of children over more than four decades has been sentenced to 29 years in jail.
Stephen Henry Walker, 68, was found guilty of 40 charges of sexual assaults relating to 15 victims, both boys and girls, following two criminal trials at Croydon crown court earlier this year.
He was convicted of 33 counts of sexual assault in the first trial, which lasted more than seven weeks, and a further seven counts of abuse in the second.
Walker, who worked as a salesman and was a Metropolitan police officer for about a year, was also a coach for a number of children’s football teams, where he met some of the victims, while others were children he knew through family friends.
Although the majority of the offences were committed in Surrey, Walker also abused children in France and Malta and other locations outside the UK.
An investigation into his offending was launched after one of the victims came forward in March 2018. As the enquiries progressed, his strong sexual interest in children, particularly boys – although two of the victims were girls – became apparent.
The offences included sexual assaults, gross indecency with children, inciting a child to commit an act of gross indecency, as well as offences of attempted buggery and buggery of some of the children. The offences took place between 1966 and 2007. Once the full extent of Walker’s abuse began to emerge, he fled to Malta, where he lived under an alias.
He returned to the UK in October 2019 and was subsequently arrested on suspicion of child sexual abuse offences. Two days later, he was charged and remanded into custody.
Surrey police’s complex abuse team located other potential victims and witnesses. This resulted in a large number of victims being identified and led to further charges being laid against Walker while he was on remand.
Many of Walker’s victims were in court for Monday’s sentencing hearing. Some read out prepared impact statements, others requested their barristers read their statements for them. They detailed emotional problems triggered by Walker’s abuse, including addiction, psychiatric problems and difficulty forming relationships.
One woman who was abused at the age of 11 and is now 66, said: “The pain has never gone away. I suffered enormous guilt that I allowed it to happen.”
Another said: “I have not spoken about what Stephen Walker did to me for over 40 years. It’s something I tried to forget and put it behind me. He told me there was nothing wrong with what he did. It was a child’s word against an adult’s.”
A third said of being able to provide the impact statement: “I’m glad I have had the chance to speak out and be believed.”
A fourth said he was mad about football and would have done anything to please Walker. “It’s hard to explain what someone like Stephen does to you. He gets inside your psyche. He sexually abused me without a thought for the pain he caused to an innocent boy.”
One man, convinced that abused children grow up to become abusers, left his own children when they were small, for fear of harming them. He is now reunited with his family and has good relationships with them but said “the loss of those wonderful early years is irretrievable”.
Walker was brought to court on Monday for sentencing but refused to enter the courtroom to listen to their impact statements or to hear his sentence.
Judge Elizabeth Smaller said he was a “serial sexual child abuser” who “chose those who were vulnerable or who he perceived to be vulnerable … or who he felt would be unlikely to be believed”.
The judge imposed sentences for the different offences to run concurrently with the longest sentence of 28 years with an extended one year of licence. He will have to serve a minimum of 14 years before he can apply for parole.