MEMBERS of a sickening paedophile ring who targeted vulnerable young boys in Bournemouth for more than 10 years are facing decades behind bars.

A complicated two-month trial saw four men convicted of more than 70 sexual offences and a judge describe them as “dangerous and depraved”.

Jurors heard how vile abuse took place for many years until two 14-year-old boys were brave enough to speak out about what had happened to them.

Their courage sparked a major investigation by the Dorset Police Child Abuse Investigation Team, known as Operation Cobalt, which identified more than 20 victims.

Robert Marti, 55, of Haviland Mews, Boscombe, was found guilty of 21 offences including rape, sexual activity with a child and causing/inciting sexual activity with children. The rape verdict was greeted with applause from the public gallery.

Kevin Carpenter, 49, of St Swithun’s Road, Bournemouth was convicted of 36 offences including sexual activity with a child and taking indecent images of a child, including photographs and a video showing himself abusing a boy. He was also found guilty of other serious sexual offences.

Luke James, 36, of Charminster Road, Bournemouth pleaded guilty to possession of indecent images, indecent assault and another serious sexual offence before the trial began and has since been sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail.

A report about the case in the Daily Echo resulted in another victim coming forward to report being abused by the three men. The victim also named another man, David Coxhead, in connection with the abuse.

Coxhead, 52, of Severn Beach, Avon and Somerset, used to run Dorset Angling in Bournemouth. He has been found guilty of nine offences of indecency with children and another serious crime.

The verdicts were returned after more than 17 hours of deliberation by the jury at Bournemouth Crown Court.

Prosecutors had told jurors: “The defendants were and are paedophiles who obtain their sexual gratification by targeting boys who, in return for money or drugs, would indulge in sexual activity with them.

“These boys were ripe for abuse. They were easy targets who could be groomed and effectively turned into rent boys. Whether by their background or reputation, these defendants thought they would not be believed should any of them complain.

“They are the sort of boys whose character could be attacked, boys with problems at home or at school, boys with few, if any, positive adult influences, some of whom were slipping into drug abuse.”

The court heard the boys were abused in a number of locations including the home addresses of the defendants, a shop, an amusement arcade and outdoor locations such as queens park.

Marti, Carpenter and Coxhead are due to be sentenced later this month. Judge Harvey Clark QC has warned Marti and Carpenter he is considering jailing them indefinitely.