Former Lostprophets frontman Ian Watkins could have been caught nearly four years earlier if allegations about his interest in sex with children had been properly investigated, the police watchdog has said.
Watkins, who was imprisoned for nearly three decades in 2013, was first reported to police in December 2008 but his sex offences weren’t discovered until October 2012, after his laptop and storage devices were seized and searched during a search of his home.
The first person to come forward was Watkins’ ex-girlfriend Joanne Mjadzelics, who approached Social Services in December 2008.
She told police Watkins had told her he sexually touched a child and gave them cocaine. He also told her he had had sex with 14-year-olds at lost Lostprophets concerns, she said.
A meeting was convened to discuss the allegations but no further action was taken after a police sergeant decided there was not enough evidence to support Mjadzelics’ claims.
Before Mjadzelics came forward, Watkins’ lawyer had contacted South Wales Police to say she was harassing and trying to blackmail him.
But if police had looked at Mjadzelics’ phone, they would have seen a message that revealed Watkins’ desire to have sex with children, which would have corroborated other reports, the Independent Police Complaints Commission said in a report published on Friday.
Five other people came forward with allegations against Watkins between 2008 and 2012.
The force’s failures were due to a “biased response”, the IPCC said. Information from the six people who came forward resulted in eight reports and three intelligence logs, none of which the force directly actioned.
“Some were conflated with reports made by Ms Mjadzelics and were thus dismissed as lacking credibility,” IPCC Commissioner Jan Williams said.
“All those involved in responding accepted the initial sceptical view of Ms Mjadzelics’ reports, demonstrating a lack of open-mindedness and professional curiosity. This continued until ‘the right type of complainant came along’.”
The IPCC said the failure to investigate was not due to Watkins’ celebrity but the “assessment of Mjadzelics as lacking credibility”.
Watkins was never arrested, questioned or required to respond to the allegations made in any way until the material was found on the devices seized as part of the investigation into his drug use, the IPCC report found.
He was was sentenced, alongside two anonymous co-defendants, to 29 years’ imprisonment with a further six years on licence in December 2013.
The judge described him as a manipulative sexual predator whose offences plumbed “new depths of depravity”.
The charges he faced included indecent images of children as young as two and the sexual abuse of a baby.
Williams added: “Police officers will rarely encounter a perfect witness; it is vital that officers ensure they remain open-minded and pursue all appropriate lines of enquiry to establish whether there is any independent corroboration for the allegations being made.
“This case demonstrates the risks inherent in failing to explore investigative opportunities to the fullest in such circumstances.”