Two retired Metropolitan Police officers have appeared in court accused of a plot to share indecent images of children with a serving chief inspector, who was found dead before he was charged.
Jack Addis, Jeremy Laxton and Richard Watkinson are alleged to have exchanged material with each other on a computer hard drive between January 2018 and July 2021.
Watkinson, 49, who was a serving chief inspector for neighbourhoods policing at the Met’s West Area Command Unit, was found dead in Buckinghamshire on January 12 – the same day he was due to answer bail to be charged with conspiracy to distribute indecent photographs of children, three counts of making indecent photos of a child, voyeurism and two counts of misconduct in public office.
Addis, 63, who is from Perthshire and is in custody in Scotland, and Laxton, 62, from Grantham, Lincolnshire, have also been charged with the conspiracy charge, which alleges that they shared images, including more than 2,500 in Category A – the worst kind – between January 1 2018 and July 10 2021.
Laxton also faces three counts of making indecent photos of a child, possession of prohibited images of a child, possession of extreme pornographic images and intentionally encouraging or assisting an offence (misconduct in public office).
He appeared in the dock at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, wearing a grey suit, pink shirt and tie, while Addis appeared via video-link, wearing a red sweater.
Both spoke to confirm their identities during the brief hearing, where they were not asked to enter pleas.
Prosecutor Edward Franklin said some of the images allegedly discovered in the investigation were at the “highest end” of Category A.
Laxton is not alleged to have taken any images of children, while Addis is said to have taken photos of youths who came to his property, which were not indecent, the court heard.
District Judge Annabel Pilling said both men will next appear at Southwark Crown Court on March 9 for a plea and case management hearing.
She granted Laxton bail on conditions of residence at his home address, to surrender his passport and not to apply for documents to travel outside of England and Wales, that he has no contact with children apart from named family members, and to inform police of any digital devices.
Met officers found Watkinson’s body, having attended an address in Saunderton, Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire, following welfare concerns.
His death is being treated as unexplained but not suspicious and an inquest has been opened and adjourned.
He had been suspended from duty following his arrest in July 2021.
Commander Jon Savell previously said: “Chief Inspector Watkinson was facing extremely serious and concerning charges, as the result of a painstaking and thorough police investigation.
“Before this matter came to light, we had no previous information about these allegations or to indicate the officer posed any risk to the public.
“He had not faced any other criminal or conduct matters during his Met career.
“He had been suspended from duty since his arrest.
“Two other men were also arrested during the course of the investigation and have been charged. Their matters will now progress through the courts.”