Missed opportunities to stop prison murder of ‘Britain’s worst ever paedophile’ Richard Huckle

An investigation into the murder of “Britain’s worst ever paedophile” at a Yorkshire prison has revealed that there was a “missed opportunity” to identify that he was being attacked.

CCTV footage taken from the day shows that only one member of staff spent time on Mr Huckle’s corridor during the period that he was subjected to the attack. This therefore, was a missed opportunity to prevent his murder.

Richard Huckle was killed by a fellow inmate at an East Yorkshire prison. Huckle was convicted of numerous horrific sex offences targeting children - as young as six months old - overseas, where he worked as a Christian teacher.

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Despite being handed 22 life sentences for his gruesome offences, Huckle did not live to serve a fraction of it after he was murdered in a "prolonged attack designed to humiliate and degrade him" by inmate Paul Fitzgerald at HMP Full Sutton on October 13, 2019.

Before his death, there had been protests that his sentence was too lenient and fears he could be released within his lifetime. Huckle, also known as the "gap year paedophile", was estimated to have abused 200 children during his trips abroad. He went to Harvey Grammar School in Folkestone, Kent where he was described as a "bit of a loner" and "nothing out of the ordinary" by friends.

After leaving education, Huckle became a TEFL (Teacher of English as a Second Language) teacher and, like many, decided to combine this with his passion for travelling. When he turned 19, he set off across the world on his gap year.

It was during this time the seemingly devout Christian would prey on vulnerable and poor children. The serial sex offender attacked girls, boys, toddlers and even a six-month-old baby over nine years.

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He would pose as a travel photographer and then take explicit photos of his abuse which he sold to other paedophiles. He even boasted to other paedophiles and wrote a guide to sexual abuse, which he called "Pedophiles & Poverty: Child Lover Guide".

In one part of the 60-page manual, he said: "I'd hit the jackpot, a three-year-old girl as loyal to me as my dog and nobody seemed to care." He bragged online: "Impoverished kids are definitely much, much easier to seduce than middle-class Western kids."

During a trip to Cambodia in 2006, Huckle systematically raped two sisters, aged four and six. In 2011 he moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, after spending time in Vietnam and Cambodia, enrolling as a student at the Metropolitan University.

During this period he gained access to orphanages and schools posing as a freelance photographer. Once trust had been established between Huckle and the various orphanages and schools, he would attach himself to the most vulnerable children, offering days out to theme parks, photography lessons, and assistance with their English lessons.

Huckle scored the scale of abuse that each victim suffered and, from these sick notes, police believe he could have targeted up to 200 children.

Freelance photographer and teacher Richard Huckle, from Ashford in Kent, admitted an unprecedented number of offences against children aged between six months and 12 years from 2006 to 2014 -Credit:Myspace/PA Wire
Freelance photographer and teacher Richard Huckle, from Ashford in Kent, admitted an unprecedented number of offences against children aged between six months and 12 years from 2006 to 2014 -Credit:Myspace/PA Wire

In February 2015, Huckle was remanded in custody. He was later sentenced to 25 years in prison for many serious sex offences. In July 2016, he was transferred to HMP Full Sutton. During his time in prison, he was sometimes the victim of violence and bullying and some prison staff told us that the high-profile nature of his offence might have made him more of a “target” for assault.

In 2018, Paul Fitzegerald, who had been in prison elsewhere since 2015, was transferred to HMP Full Sutton. Fitzgerald was diagnosed with a personality disorder with psychopathic traits. During his time in custody, Fitzgerald said that he experienced violent fantasies and described having thoughts of rape and torture. He was frequently assessed and reviewed by prison mental health teams as a result.

On July 9 2019, Fitzgerald moved to D Wing, where he lived on the same wing as Huckle. The wing was a unit for ‘vulnerable’ prisoners, including those who have been convicted of sex offences or have asked to live separately from the general population for other reasons. Prison staff told investigators that Huckle’s high-profile offence might have made him more of a “target” for other prisoners.

The report states that on October 3 2019 Fitzgerald told an officer that he had constant thoughts of murder, rape, cannibalism and torture. He said that he had committed a very violent act on a prisoner at Woodhill, who had not reported this at the time.

On the same day, staff found a note on another wing addressed to Fitzgerald. It indicated that he would be paid to assault a specific prisoner (not Huckle). Staff submitted security information reports about both incidents.

Later, on 7 October, Fitzgerald met his prison offender manager in the presence of an officer. During the meeting, Fitzgerald said that he enjoyed hitting women and made “veiled threats” that he was planning to commit an act of violence. The officer submitted a security information report.

At 10.30am on October 13, Fitzgerald went to Huckle’s cell and committed a sustained and violent assault. At around 11.45am, a prisoner, who had disturbed the incident, informed prison staff in the wing office. They went to the cell, removed Fitzgerald and began emergency first aid. At 12.30pm, paramedics confirmed that Mr Huckle had died.

It was later revealed that Fitzgerald had tortured Huckle in a 78-minute attack. After tying Huckle up, Fitzgerald raped him, strangled him with so much force his hands required treatment and smashed his face onto the floor, punched him, broke his jaw, stabbed him in the neck and inserted the pen so far up his nostril that it penetrated the bone and went into his brain.

A post-mortem examination established that Huckle was the victim of a sustained attack that involved makeshift weapons being used to inflict multiple injuries. The pathologist concluded that he died from being strangled.

An investigation into how another inmate had been able to kill Huckle while in prison, which was carried out by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, has been released today (Wednesday, May 15). Investigator, Sue McAllister, believes that there were “missed opportunities” to identify that Mr Fitzgerald was at “increased risk” of committing an “act of serious violence” in the time leading up to Mr Huckle’s death.

Ms McAllister said: “Each piece of intelligence was considered in isolation and there was no evidence that anyone considered whether, cumulatively, they might indicate a higher risk. At the same time, a wing manager did not interview Fitzgerald in light of the intelligence, as should have happened. There was also no referral to the mental health team, despite one of the reports explicitly referring to Fitzgerald’s “poor mental health”.

In addition, the report findings also stated that CCTV footage taken from the day shows that only one member of staff spent time on Mr Huckle’s corridor during the period that Mr Fitzgerald was in his cell. This therefore, was a missed opportunity to identify the assault.

The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman has made a number of recommendations as a result of the findings of the investigation. These include that the prison Governor should ensure that security intelligence reports indicating violence are analysed properly, that prisoners whom the intelligence highlights may be considering committing an act of violence are interviewed by wing managers.

The report also suggested that officers should undertake frequent patrols and be on the alert for signs of violence.

Fitzgerald was jailed for life for murdering Huckle, with a minimum sentence of 34 years. He claimed he was carrying out "poetic justice" for Huckle's 200 victims as he tortured him for one hour and 19 minutes.