Singer pleads guilty to 11 charges in last-minute change of plea before what would have been his trial at Cardiff crown court.
The rock singer Ian Watkins has pleaded guilty to a string of sex offenses involving children, including the attempted rape of a baby.
Watkins, the 36-year-old lead singer and founder member of the now-disbanded Lostprophets, had been due to face trial at Cardiff crown court but changed his pleas at the last moment.
The jury had been warned they would have to examine disturbing images and arrangements were already in hand for them to receive counseling at the end of the case.
But Watkins, whose band has sold around 3.5m albums world wide, admitted 11 charges – though he claimed he had no memory of what would have been key video evidence showing a one-year-old victim being abused, because he had been taking drugs on the day in question.
As well as the attempted rape, the charges admitted by Watkins included encouraging a woman to abuse a child during a webcam chat. He also pleaded guilty to making images of child sexual abuse.
Christopher Clee QC, prosecuting, said the crown had accepted Watkins’s pleas partly to spare the jury the trauma of watching explicit video footage.
Clee branded Watkins, from Pontypridd in south Wales, a “determined and committed pedophile”. The court heard of an exchange with a woman offering him a “summer of child porn”. He replied: “Hell yes baby.”
Two women, who cannot be named for legal reasons, appeared alongside Watkins and also admitted sex offenses involving children.
The court heard that the two women were fans in their twenties who sexually abused their babies, a boy and girl, at the behest of Watkins – and were prepared to make the children available to him for sex.
It emerged that GCHQ helped crack the passwords on Watkins’ computer to get access to the criminal images he had stored there.
Police found drugs including crack cocaine and crystal meth on Watkins. Tests showed that one of the children had been “exposed” to crystal meth.
Detectives worked with other British police forces and agencies, the child exploitation and online protection center, local authorities in England and Wales. But they also liaised with Interpol and the department of homeland security in the US.
Wearing a grey suit with a white shirt and dark tie, his black and grey hair shaped into a quiff, Watkins continually looked to his barrister as he made his admissions.
Catrin Evans, the head of the Crown Prosecution Service’s complex casework unit for Wales, said: “The three defendants in this case have admitted very serious sexual offenses committed against extremely young children, demonstrating sexual exploitation at its worst.
“A number of the victims are too young to be able to understand what has happened to them, yet the defendants exploited them for their own gratification.
“The prosecution case is based on robust evidence uncovered by the investigation team and the South Wales police high-tech crime unit. The CPS team worked closely with the police to build a strong case and this has been a major factor in today’s guilty pleas.
“The CPS will not tolerate child abuse. Tackling this unacceptable crime is a priority for all of us in the criminal justice system.
“We have recently issued new guidelines for prosecutors dealing with child abuse cases and are committed to supporting victims and bringing those who abuse and exploit children before the courts.”
Unusually, after Watkins was charged in December last year, South Wales police named him and asked anyone with information to come forward.
In a statement, it said: “In order to assist their investigation South Wales police has named the man as Ian Watkins, a member of the rock group Lostprophets.”
The statement said Watkins and two women had been arrested as part of a “continuing investigation” codenamed Operation Globe and had been questioned at Cardiff Bay police station.
On Tuesday, Detective Chief Inspector Peter Doyle, of South Wales police, said: “This investigation has uncovered the most shocking and harrowing child abuse evidence I’ve ever seen.
“There is no doubt in my mind that Ian Watkins exploited his celebrity status in order to abuse young children.
“Today’s outcome does not mark the end of our investigations and we will work tirelessly to identify any other victims.”
Experts from the NSPCC were also involved at a very early stage.
John Cameron, the head of child protection operations for the NSPCC, said at the time of Watkins’s first court appearance: “We can confirm we are working alongside South Wales police and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre on this investigation.
“It’s vital we send a clear message to those who have experienced abuse that they can never be to blame for what has happened to them, that they have somewhere to turn and that they will be taken seriously.”
Co-founded by Watkins in the south Wales town of Pontypridd in 1997, Lostprophets released five albums, the latest of which, Weapons, came out in April 2012. The group have had two singles, Last Train Home and Rooftops, in the UK top 10. The other members of Lostprophets announced last month that the band were splitting up.
Watkins and the two women will be sentenced next month.