Mother describes how she knifed paedophile neighbour to death after he abused three of her sons

23 November 2022, 14:13

Sarah Sands and her three sons
Sarah Sands and her three sons. Picture: BBC

By Kit Heren

A mother has described how she killed an elderly paedophile, stabbing him eight times, after she learned he had been abusing her three young sons.

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Sarah Sands stabbed her neighbour, convicted paedophile Michael Pleasted, to death in 2014.

Pleasted, 77, was facing further charges of abusing her three sons, aged 12 and 11 at the time.

When Sands was convicted of manslaughter for the "determined and sustained" attack, her sons Bradley and twins Alfie and Reece, now 19 and 20, could not be named. They have now waived their anonymity and can talk about the attack for the first time, but say they are still haunted by the abuse.

Sarah Sands on her way to Michael Pleasted's house
Sarah Sands on her way to Michael Pleasted's house. Picture: Met Police

Bradley told the BBC: "I thought hats off. I'm not going to deny it.

"He lived literally across the road from us, I could open that window over there," pointing to Pleasted's house, "and I'd see his house."

"It did make us feel safer," Alfie added. "It didn't slow down the nightmares.

"But it did give us a sense of security because you didn't have to walk down the street thinking he was going to come around the corner."

Reece said that it was "nice knowing that he was dead", adding that "it didn't stop any afterthoughts, you know, we would often wake up crying [saying] 'where's mum?'"

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Sands was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison, up from the initial three and a half years, after the court ruled the term too lenient.

The family had first got to know Pleasted, a fellow resident of their estate in Silvertown, in east London, because he was working in the local newsagent.

Her three sons were among several local boys who helped Pleasted out, and Sands also became friendly with him.

She says: "I thought he was a lovely old man.

"I cooked for him, looked after him, always kept him company when I had the time."

Sands now believes Pleasted was grooming her sons, and he invited them back to his house.

Sarah Sands
Sarah Sands. Picture: Met Police

On one night the three boys told her Pleasted had abused them. She called the police, who arrested and charged him.

But Pleasted was released on bail and allowed to return to his home on the estate, to Sands' dismay. She moved her entire family to her mother's small flat.

One night she was captured on CCTV going over to Pleasted's house with a knife, although she said she had not intended to kill him at first.

"I didn't know what I was doing there," she said.

"I realised I had made a huge mistake. He was not remorseful in any shape or form. He said 'your children are lying'.

"The whole world froze. I had the knife in my left hand and I remember he tried to grab it."

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Sands went to the police a few hours later, covered in blood. She was charged and convicted of manslaughter, rather than murder. The judge said he was sure she had not "rationally thought through what taking a knife might lead to" but that "the possibility of its use was in her mind."

Sands was released after serving four years of her seven and a half year sentence. She said: "I had taken the law into my own hands. I've always been raised to take responsibility for my actions."

The three boys continued to live with their grandmother, in overcrowded conditions.

Bradley said: "There was loads of us all in one room. There was no privacy.

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"My nan was talking to my mum on the phone in prison, asking her if I could go and play football, or go out with my mates. And often she would say 'no'."

Alfie said they did "miss out on stuff". They saw their mother once a month in prison. "Sometimes you just want to tell your Mum a problem," he said now.

Sands said: "They were angry with me. Before I went in, we were so close and then all of a sudden, I wasn't there anymore. It was awful for them."

Asked if she felt remorse for killing Pleasted, she said. "Absolutely... I bring life into the world. It never occurred to me that I would be guilty of taking life out of the world."

Sarah Sands and her three sons
Sarah Sands and her three sons. Picture: BBC

Since Pleasted's death, it has emerged that he had changed his name, from Robin Moult - and had previously been convicted of 24 child sexual offence charges, crimes that had carried jail terms.

But his name change meant that nobody in the area, not even the council that housed him, knew about his criminal past.

Sands is now among campaigners pushing for the government to make it harder for criminals to hide their past convictions and get around DBS checks.

Supporting the campaign, Labour MP Sarah Champion said: "Once they have changed their names, they are able to get a new driving licence and passport in that name.

"That enables them to get a new DBS check. And we are finding that these people are then going into schools and other places where there are children and vulnerable people and exploiting their positions of trust in the most horrific ways."

One solution would be for police to mark offenders' passports when they are convicted, meaning any name change would get flagged up automatically.

A Home Office spokesperson said staff had carried out a review, but that it could not reveal details because they contained sensitive information. The spokesperson added that the UK had stronger powers than most countries to deal with previous sex offenders living free in the community.

The three boys said they had managed to rebuild their relationship with their mother after her release in 2018.

Reece said: "She did try to baby us. It was nice but it just makes you realise all those years that were lost."

Bradley added: "There is nothing that is going to break the family bond."

The brothers said that as children they regretted speaking out, but now are happy that they did.

f we had all kept out mouth shut, we would have had our mum, and we would have been going shopping, going to the cinema, doing what a normal 12-year-old would do," Bradley said.

Reece added: "It going to be hard, but it does get better. Alfie said: "You should always come forward. It's better to talk. If you don't, it's just going to get worse."

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