A childless former soldier is facing a jail sentence after he persuaded a boy of 12 and other children to go to his house multiple times, convincing the boy’s parents he had a child around the same age.
Anthony Lingard, 38, pleaded guilty to five counts of child abduction at Manchester Crown Court on Friday.
The offences, which concern one boy, who cannot be named, took place between July 2019 and January 2020.
The defendant would allow the victim and other children to his Radcliffe home, where he was said to be known for teaching local children about nature and how to build dens, a court was told.
The prosecution said Lingard would buy alcohol for his visitors, take them on camping trips and even told the pre-teen victim he could bring his girlfriend.
Anthony Lingard, of Schofield Street in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester, pleaded guilty to five counts of child abduction on Friday after allowing a boy of 12 and other children to stay over at his house, drink, vape and go camping with him.
Lingard gave the boys “free rein” at his home, allowing them to stay over, drink alcohol and vape, prosecutor Nicola Caroll told the court.
According to MEN Media, she said: “In fact, the boys were allowed to do what they wanted to do at the defendant’s house and so they returned time and time again.”
During one camping trip, Lingard allowed the boys to play drinking games and slept with them in the tent.
His victim became “drunk” and the situation made him feel “uncomfortable”, said the prosecutor.
The victim’s father said in a victim statement: “He groomed and manipulated a young boy by allowing him to do things he knew were illegal for a boy of that age.”
Ms Caroll told the court that the victim told his parents that Lingard was the father of a friend who would visit the house, but that the defendant was “complicit in the deception”, because when he spoke to the victim’s father, he kept up the pretence.
Lingard also told the victim’s mother he was the father of her son’s friend.
Ms Carroll said: “He consistently gave both parents the impression he was the father of a 12-year-old son.”
The victim’s father said he was “disgusted” at Lingard, who he would phone to “check it was OK” that his son went over before any planned visit.
The father even visited himself on one occasion, but Lingard remained in the house and spoke to him through a window, “furthering the deception”, said the prosecutor.
The father grew to “trust” Lingard, and started texting instead of phoning to check if the visit was OK.
Mr Lingard, who is a childless ex-soldier, led the parents of the 12-year-old to belief he was the father of a boy around the same age. The victim’s father said he was “disgusted” by Lingard’s actions and that he was “terrified” that he could have been “so naïve”.
However, had he known the real situation, the visits “would not have been allowed”, the court heard.
Eventually, the truth of the situation “got out” at the victim’s school and teachers “raised the alarm” by calling the police.
Lingard, who has no previous convictions, was arrested.
In his police interview, he admitted that his victim had visited his home and that he had taken him and his friends camping.
However, he denied that the boy was allowed to drink and denied deceiving his parents.
In a victim personal statement written by the victim’s father read to the court, he said his son “now understood what Lingard did”.
He described how the youngster suffered with “anxiety” and had become “very quiet” at school.
He went on to say how his son had struggled with his studies, adding: “Our bright, beautiful boy has now disappeared”.
The father added that it “terrified” him that he could have been “so naïve” and that his wife suffered “sleepless nights” and “anxiety” watching her son “go through so much pain and hurt”.
Manchester Crown Crown Court heard how the 12-year-old victim now suffered with “anxiety” and had become “very quiet” at school. Judge Angela Nield postponed sentencing until she could get a specialist report from a psychologist or psychiatrist on Lingard.
He said he no longer trusts other parents, saying: “I feel like I have failed my son. It’s destroyed our confidence in so many ways.”
Andrew Evans, mitigating, said that, while his client had been under investigation for two years, including for sexual offences, he had not been charged with any sexual offences.
He described it as a “very unusual case” and noted that the “lie” had in fact started with the boy, although his client “acknowledged” his part in the deception also.
Mr Evans argued that his client’s behaviour had been “child-like”.
Judge Angela Nield, expressed concern about the motivation for Lingard’s crimes and adjourned sentencing until September 9 to wait for a specialist report from a psychologist or psychiatrist.
She said: “This is not a misunderstanding. This is a deliberate deception of parents, whose belief in their parenting capacity has been damaged”.
She described the defendant’s behaviour as “frankly bizarre” and said she needed a “deeper understanding” before sentencing could be given.
She said a jail sentence was potentially on the cards, as well as a prosecution application for a sexual harm prevention order.
When the case was adjourned, Lingard said: “Thank you, your honour.”
No family members of the defendant were present in court.
Lingard served in the Royal Welch Fusiliers, before working as a Police Community Support Officer in Eccles and later as a firefighter in Ramsbottom.