Lewis Edwards, 23, of Bridgend, blackmailed children into sending images of themselves performing sexual acts
A serving police officer, 23-year-old Lewis Edwards, has admitted to committing crimes against more than 200 children. Edwards used blackmail to coerce these young victims into sending explicit images and videos of themselves engaged in sexual acts, plunging them into a living nightmare of fear and manipulation. This harrowing saga of abuse came to light when intelligence reached the police force about Edwards’s involvement in the dark web’s distribution of indecent images of children.
Operating under the guise of a teenager on Snapchat, Edwards ruthlessly targeted victims between the ages of 10 and 16, spanning a period from 2020 to 2023. His modus operandi involved duping victims into creating indecent content, which he clandestinely recorded. Armed with this damning evidence, he would then subject his victims to a never-ending cycle of blackmail, forcing them to produce increasingly graphic and explicit material. Shockingly, Edwards also sent explicit videos of himself to some of his victims, intensifying their trauma.
When South Wales Police apprehended Edwards, they uncovered a trove of heavily encrypted electronic devices and a sinister blackmail manual in his possession, providing a chilling glimpse into the depths of his depravity.
During his appearance at Cardiff Crown Court, Edwards pleaded guilty to a staggering 54 charges. These included 23 counts of causing/inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, one count of causing child exploitation, six counts of causing a child to watch a sexual act, 14 counts of blackmail, one count of attempting to cause/incite a child to engage in sexual activity, and nine counts of making indecent images of children. These images, classified into categories A, B, and C, numbered an alarming 4,777.
Prosecutor Roger Griffiths laid bare the horrifying statistics. While 27 victims were identified in connection to sexual activity and blackmail offenses, the truly distressing revelation was that around 200 victims were associated with the indecent images charges. Judge Tracey Lloyd-Clarke remanded Edwards in custody, scheduling his sentencing for a three-day hearing on October 23.
Detective Superintendent Tracey Rankine, at the helm of South Wales Police’s online investigation team, reflected on the enormity of the crimes unearthed. She underscored their unwavering commitment to identifying and supporting the victims, collaborating with police forces across the UK. She described Edwards’s actions as abhorrent, highlighting the pervasive atmosphere of fear he imposed on his young victims.
Lucy Dowdall, a specialist prosecutor in the CPS’ organised child sexual abuse unit, delivered a scathing indictment of Edwards, condemning his predatory behavior. She emphasised the resolute determination of law enforcement and prosecutors to bring online sexual offenders to justice, sending a clear message that the dark web is no refuge for such criminals.
Assistant Chief Constable Danny Richards of South Wales Police expressed profound shock and revulsion at the heinous offences committed by Edwards, who had been entrusted with upholding the law. Richards acknowledged the profound damage to public trust in policing and emphasised that there is no place in South Wales Police for anyone who abuses their position of authority. Edwards was promptly suspended and dismissed from the force once his true identity came to light.
Richards urged the public to come forward with any information regarding the safety of young or vulnerable individuals and those who pose a risk to society. The protection of the public remains their paramount concern, underscoring the commitment of the majority of diligent police officers who serve their communities with courage and pride.