Police investigation puts end to decade-long ‘reign of terror’
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A substantial and complex police investigation spanning nine months has ended after a Melton man responsible for a decade of abuse has been sentenced to life imprisonment.
Countless officers from across the force have worked to ensure Lee Smith was brought to justice for the crimes he committed, as well as to protect and support the three young people he exploited.
The 42-year-old, of Blakeney Crescent, Melton Mowbray, used violence and threats as a way to manipulate and control his victims – committing numerous acts of rape and assault.
At Nottingham Crown Court yesterday (Monday 4 September), he was sentenced for a total of 26 offences – after being found guilty of 21 crimes and admitting a further five.
He was given life imprisonment and will serve a minimum of 15 years and 111 days.
For more than 10 years, between January 2012 and December 2022, Smith inflicted mental and physical torture on his victims, who were all children when the abuse began.
He regularly subjected two of the victims, who were girls, to acts of sexual assault.
The girls and the third victim, a boy, also faced regular vicious attacks at the hands of Smith – as well as threats or fear of violence.
Now all in their 20s, the enormity of the suffering they had endured came to light in December last year following a report made to police.
After initial enquiries were carried out, the case was quickly escalated to specialist detectives for further investigation.
It was then that the full extent of the horrific abuse began to unfold.
Detective Constable Emma Ball was assigned as the officer in the case and throughout this year has worked tirelessly to build a mountain of evidence against Smith – including being one of a number of officers completing a total of 15 interviews and 70 witness statements, as well as collating around 65 evidential exhibits and gathering more than 100 items of additional evidence during the course of the investigation.
Alongside DC Chris Sherwin, the pair, most importantly, have been supporting the victims every step of the way.
DC Emma Ball said: “Smith robbed these three people of their childhood and for more than a decade of their lives, they were controlled by his sadistic reign of terror.
“As the OIC it has been truly heartbreaking and extremely distressing to hear the horrific abuse the victims endured. The courage and strength the victims have shown since Smith’s arrest and throughout this investigation to ensure that justice was served has been incredible.
“Following his conviction in court, Lee Smith was given a minimum of 15 years in prison. While this sentencing will not take away the victims’ pain and suffering, I hope it does help in some small way as they continue to move forward with their lives.”
It was a few days after the initial report to police that plans were put in place to arrest Smith so he could be questioned.
When police arrived at his address, on the morning of Monday 19 December, he refused to cooperate – barricading himself inside the property and making serious threats to harm himself, the people inside the house and any officers who attempted to enter.
The incident resulted in a 12-hour standoff and drew upon the expertise of more than 30 officers – including specially trained negotiators, firearms, drone and police dog support and a Chief Superintendent coordinating the response at the scene.
After Smith was safely detained, specialist teams carried out a thorough search of the house and found cannabis and multiple weapons – including a baton and knuckle dusters.
Alongside the string of crimes against the three victims, Smith was also charged with a number of offences as a result of this incident.
Chief Constable Rob Nixon said: “My thoughts remain with the victims of these horrific offences. I thank them for their incredible bravery to work with us to ensure that justice was done in this extremely harrowing case.
“Bringing Smith before the courts was a difficult and complex investigation and I am extremely proud of the work of so many across the force which has led to today’s outcome. I particularly want to thank DCs Ball and Sherwin for the professionalism, compassion and care they have shown the victims, which has helped them to have the courage to speak out about the abuse they have suffered for so many years.”
Following a three-week trial in June at Leicester Crown Court, Smith was found guilty of the following 21 charges:
Seven counts of rape
Four counts of actual bodily harm (ABH)
Four accounts of assault by penetration
Two counts of controlling or coercive behaviour
Two counts of sexual assault
One count of sexual assault of a child
One count of sexual activity with a child
At an earlier hearing he also pleaded guilty to the following five offences:
Two counts of possession of an offensive weapon
One count of damaging property
One count of possession of a class B drug
One count of affray
He was also found not guilty at trial of the following 13 offences:
Six counts of rape
Two counts of ABH
Two counts of sexual activity with a child
One count of controlling or coercive behaviour
One count of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity
One count of penetrative sexual activity with a child