2009 Plymouth child abuse case

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The 2009 Plymouth child abuse case was a child abuse and paedophile ring involving at least five adults from different parts of England. The case centred on photographs taken of up to 64 children by Vanessa George, a nursery worker in Plymouth. It highlighted the issue of child molestation by women, as all but one of the members of the ring were female.


Between late 2008 and early 2009, Vanessa George, Colin Blanchard, and Angela Allen met on Facebook,[1] and then started to email and text message each other. The messages were often of a sexual nature, and moved on to child abuse. Police believe that the three were having a contest to see who could produce the most depraved picture.[1] George started taking indecent pictures of 2 to 5 year old children at the nursery where she worked, and also a picture of her then 14-year-old daughter. Police believe that none of these pictures were distributed beyond these three people.

A fourth member of the ring, Tracy Lyons, a mother of nine from Portsmouth, Hampshire, pleaded guilty in March 2010 to assault of a child by penetration, sexual assault of a child under 13, causing a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity and three offences of distributing indecent photographs of a child.

A fifth member of the ring, Tracy Dawber, a care worker from Southport, in Merseyside, was found guilty of one count of sexually abusing a baby in October 2010.[2]

Vanessa George
Vanessa Sylvia Marks

(1970-03-30) 30 March 1970 (age 50)
Plymouth, England
OccupationNursery worker
Criminal penaltyIndeterminate imprisonment sentence (minimum 7 years)
Angela Allen
Born7 December 1960(60)
Manchester, England
OccupationProstitute, traffic warden[3][4]
Criminal penaltyIndeterminate imprisonment sentence (minimum 5 years)
Colin Blanchard
Born (1970-10-05) 5 October 1970 (age 50)[5]
Rochdale , greater Manchester , England
OccupationIT consultant
Criminal penaltyIndeterminate imprisonment sentence (minimum 9 years)
Tracy Lyons
Born (1970-01-08) 8 January 1970 (age 51)[6]
Portsmouth, England
Criminal penalty7 years
Tracy Dawber
Born (1966-06-13) 13 June 1966 (age 54)[6]
Southport, England
OccupationCommunity care worker
Criminal penalty4 years

The investigation and arrests[edit]

In June 2009, a colleague of Colin Blanchard turned on Blanchard's laptop computer to research Blanchard's business dealings whilst Blanchard was abroad. The colleague found images of sexual abuse of babies and toddlers, which he reported to Greater Manchester Police.[1] Police searched Blanchard's computer, and arrested him upon his return to England. Police found indecent images on his computer, and emails and texts between himself, Vanessa George and Angela Allen.

On the evening of 8 June, police arrested George, a worker at Little Teds Nursery in Plymouth. George appeared in court on 11 June on charges of sexual assault and making, possessing and distributing indecent images of children.[7]


The trial was presided over by Mr Justice Royce. George pleaded guilty to seven counts of sexual assault, and six of making and distributing indecent pictures of children. On 15 December 2009 George was given an indeterminate sentence, and told that she would serve at least seven years, with the proviso that she must prove she is safe to society before being released.[8]

Allen pleaded guilty to distributing an indecent image, and four counts of sexual assault, all of the offences involved children.[9] On 15 December she was also given an indeterminate sentence, with a minimum tariff of five years.[8]

On 10 January 2011, Blanchard was given an indeterminate sentence of at least nine years, and two other members of the paedophile ring, Tracy Dawber and Tracy Lyons, were sentenced to four and seven years respectively.[10]

Book controversy[edit]

In March 2010, a book written by Wensley Clarkson, Vanessa: A Portrait of Evil caused controversy when parents of the victims railed against it, calling it 'sick' and saying they were 'horrified'. The author defended his position on the book, claiming it was written as a genuine attempt to understand what George did and why she did it.[11]

Release of Lyons from prison[edit]

Lyons was released from prison in October 2011, nine months after her conviction, having spent two years in prison. Her release was condemned by child protection charity Kidscape, with a spokesperson Claude Knights stating: "This early release is a betrayal of the victims and their families whose suffering will continue for years."[12]


The case prompted an increased recognition of the problem of female paedophiles, sex offenders, and the scale of their offending, with one estimate suggesting that at least 10% of sex offenders are female.[13][14] The case also challenged the false stereotype that only men sexually abuse children. Previously some had attempted to blame the behaviour of female child sexual abusers on men, suggesting that the female child sex abusers were usually acting under duress or coercion. The case showed that the perpetrators were acting of their own free will and for their own sexual gratification. Michele Elliott of child protection charity Kidscape stated "the reality is women abuse, women abuse without men telling them to abuse, and I think we have to acknowledge it for the sake of the children who are being abused." The case also promoted calls for more research into the offending of female paedophiles.[15][16]

The case prompted Plymouth City Council to launch a serious case review, the report of which was published on 4 November 2010. It concluded that while ultimate responsibility for the abuse rested with George and that no "professional could have reasonably predicted that George might be a risk to children", there were several failings in nursery's management, recruitment, staff reporting and other arrangements, which had "provided an ideal environment" for her to abuse. It also speculated that either a 2008 Ofsted inspection of the nursery just months before, which has rated the nursery "good" for child protection, had not been adequate, or that Ofsted's "framework for inspection is not adequate".[17]

Little Ted's, the private nursery where the abuse took place, was situated in the grounds of Laira Green Primary School. The nursery closed at the time of the first arrests, in June 2009. In September 2010 a new facility opened in its place, a pre-school unit named Greenshoots, which was to be managed jointly with the school, with the school head teacher on its board of trustees.[18]


Vanessa George was released from prison in September 2019 after serving ten years in prison. The parole board approved her release in July 2019. George must adhere to a number of conditions including not owning a device which can access the internet. Any break in these conditions will result in her release being revoked and additional jail time.[19]


  1. ^ a b c Kay, Jon (1 October 2009). "Chilling bond between online abusers". BBC News. Retrieved 15 December 2009.
  2. ^ "Member of a Rochdale man's paedophile ring convicted". Rochdaleonline.co.uk. Retrieved 6 January 2011.
  3. ^ Bunyan, Nigel; Savill, Richard (1 October 2009). "Nursery worker child sex abuse case: Angela Allen profile". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  4. ^ White, Sarah; Bell, Dan (1 October 2009). "Spotlight on trio of child abusers". BBC News.
  5. ^ "Three police force probe that snared child sex abusers". This is Nottingham. 19 September 2012. Archived from the original on 19 September 2012. Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  6. ^ a b "Three sentenced for child sex offences". Click Manchester. Archived from the original on 13 March 2014.
  7. ^ de Bruxelles, Simon (11 June 2009). "Little Ted's nursery worker Vanessa George charged with child abuse". The Times. London: Times Newspapers Ltd. Retrieved 15 December 2009.
  8. ^ a b "Nursery paedophile Vanessa George jailed indefinitely". BBC News. 15 December 2009. Archived from the original on 21 December 2009. Retrieved 15 December 2009.
  9. ^ "'Spoilt brat' who became 'evil' paedophile". Hucknall Dispatch. 18 December 2009. Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  10. ^ "Merseyside paedophiles Colin Blanchard and Tracy Dawber sentenced". Liverpool Echo. 10 January 2011. Retrieved 10 January 2011.
  11. ^ "Anger at book about nursery paedophile Vanessa George". BBC News. 4 March 2010. Retrieved 4 March 2010.
  12. ^ "Anger over paedophile's release". BBC News. 11 October 2011. Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  13. ^ "Child Protection Charity Calls for Recognition of Scale of Female Sexual Offending" (PDF). The Lucy Faithfull Foundation. 15 December 2009.
  14. ^ "The Vanessa George case reveals the hidden face of female depravity" (PDF). Mark Williams-Thomas. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 December 2017. Retrieved 10 April 2019.
  15. ^ "Female paedophilia". Sky News. Archived from the original on 5 October 2009. Retrieved 6 January 2011.
  16. ^ Covington, Coline (5 October 2009). "Women paedophiles come out of hiding". The First Post. Archived from the original on 10 October 2009. Retrieved 6 January 2011.
  17. ^ "Little Ted's was 'ideal' place for Vanessa George abuse". BBC News. 4 November 2010. Archived from the original on 4 November 2010. Retrieved 4 November 2010.
  18. ^ "Pre-school facility replaces Vanessa George nursery". BBC News. 2 September 2010. Archived from the original on 3 September 2010. Retrieved 2 September 2010.
  19. ^ Evans, Martin (11 July 2019). "Britain's worst female paedophile to be released from prison". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 6 September 2019.

Further reading[edit]

  • Morris, Jonathan (15 December 2009). "Nursery abuser's trail of damage". BBC News. Retrieved 15 December 2009.
  • Wonnacott, Jane (6 December 2012). "Keeping children safe in nurseries: A focus on culture and context". Journal of Sexual Aggression. 19: 32–45. doi:10.1080/13552600.2012.747631.
  • Elliott, Ian A.; Ashfield, Sherry (1 March 2011). "The use of online technology in the modus operandi of female sex offenders". Journal of Sexual Aggression. 17 (1): 92–104. doi:10.1080/13552600.2010.537379.