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Gary Glitter and 6 other shocking celebrity sex criminals

Gary Glitter
Image: Gary Glitter in 1990 | David Fowler /

1. Gary Glitter

Once the poster boy for the flamboyant glam rock movement, Gary Glitter is now synonymous with his sex crimes, which caused a stunning fall from grace in the late 1990s. Taking his computer to be repaired in PC World, Glitter – real name Paul Gadd – found himself in handcuffs when a technician alerted police after discovering a stockpile of child porn on his device.

He was given a short jail sentence, his career abruptly in ruins. Yet this was just the start of his murky downward spiral, which saw the one-time national treasure settling in Vietnam, where he was given another jail term – this time for abusing two pre-teen girls. After his release, shunned by numerous other nations which refused to let him in, Glitter was compelled to return to the UK, where he announced his intention to return to music and 'continue to rock 'n' roll.'

Instead, he was arrested yet again in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal, and charged with historic sex offences against young girls. After being sent to prison for 16 years in 2015, Glitter was released in February 2023, just halfway through his sentence.

2. R. Kelly

R. Kelly used to be one of the most successful R&B singers on the planet. The three-time Grammy Award winner dubbed himself the 'Pied Piper of R&B', a nickname that began to have incredibly sinister connotations as countless allegations about him sexually abusing young fans came to light.

He was accused of having sexual contact with Aaliyah, an up-and-coming R&B singer, when she was just 13 or 14 years old. In 1994, the pair illegally married when R. Kelly was 27 and Aaliyah was 15. Over the next two decades, R. Kelly faced more allegations of child exploitation, sex trafficking, producing child pornography and numerous other crimes.

Across three seasons, the docu-series Surviving R. Kelly examines the allegations against R. Kelly up until his conviction. On 29th June 2022, he was sentenced in a Brooklyn court to 30 years in prison.

3. Mike Tyson

Mike Tyson was once the most feared boxer alive, a ferocious force of nature with a habit of knocking opponents out in the very first round. But the so-called 'baddest man on the planet' faced a reckoning when, in the early 90s, he was arrested for the rape of Desiree Washington, a contestant at the Miss Black America beauty pageant.

Tyson was so intimidating that even the prosecutor in his trial was nervous, later saying 'He was a real issue for me on the stand… You’re standing inches away from one of the most physically powerful men on the planet… You don’t know if he’s going to flip out.'

The trial was a media sensation, with the boxer eventually handed a six-year sentence. Yet, unlike many other snared celebrity sex criminals, he was able to rebuild his career and re-enter the limelight after his release.

4. Roman Polanski

The case of Roman Polanski is one of the most divisive in the history of celebrity sex crimes. His defenders, including many fellow celebrities, point to his artistic stature, as the acclaimed filmmaker behind classics like Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby and The Pianist. There’s also his tragic personal life – Polanski is a Holocaust survivor and the widower of Sharon Tate, who was slaughtered alongside her friends by Charles Manson’s minions in 1969.

Yet, in the eyes of many, Polanski is simply a child rapist who has never paid for his crime. He fled the US in 1978, while under threat of a long prison term for sex acts with 13-year-old Samantha Gailey. She’d been modelling for a photo shoot with Polanski when the assault happened at the home of Jack Nicholson (who was away at the time).

Relocating to France, and still officially a fugitive from justice, Polanski went on to make many more films, even winning a Best Director Oscar in 2002. That said, the climate has become less forgiving in the post-#MeToo era, and last year he was officially expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the body behind the Oscars.

5. Ian Watkins

'It's as if he just doesn't care. He has shown no remorse at any time. In my view, that potentially makes him the most dangerous sex offender I have ever seen.' These were the damning words of a senior detective following the conviction of Ian Watkins, lead singer of Welsh rock band Lostprophets.

As Watkins wrote in a chilling text message to one of the mothers, 'If you belong to me, so does your baby.'

In 2013, Watkins was handed 35 years – a hefty sentence reflecting the staggering scale of his sexual offences, which included the attempted rape of a baby. What made the case especially gruesome was the involvement of two mothers, who abused their own children to please him. As Watkins wrote in a chilling text message to one of the mothers, 'If you belong to me, so does your baby.'

6. Rolf Harris

The nation was stunned when Rolf Harris – one of Britain’s most beloved entertainers for so many decades – was arrested in 2013 as part of the post-Savile crackdown on celebrity sex criminals. He faced numerous allegations of historical offences, including allegations by a friend of his own daughter, who claimed he’d begun their relationship when she was underage. A letter even surfaced from Harris to the girl’s father, in which he begged forgiveness for inadvertently scaring the girl, and how he was in a 'state of abject self loathing' over the affair (which Harris claimed only began after she was an adult).

Harris was found guilty of a number of assaults over the years, and was described by the prosecutor as a 'sinister pervert' with a Jekyll and Hyde character. The judge summed it up accurately when he looked at Harris and told him, 'Your reputation now lies in ruins', before sentencing him to almost six years behind bars.

7. Bill Cosby

One of the first major black stars of the small screen, Bill Cosby went on to become known as “America’s dad” thanks to his heartwarming turn as a benevolent family man in the smash-hit 80s sitcom The Cosby Show. Yet, beneath that benign façade lurked an alleged serial sex predator who has been accused of drugging and then assaulting a string of women over the past decades. The allegations came and went, until a stand-up comedy skit about Cosby by comedian Hannibal Buress went viral in 2014, bringing a new focus onto the rumours around the star. In 2018, he was finally convicted of drugging and assaulting a female friend, Andrea Constand, and handed 3 to 10 years in prison – a stunning fall that arguably encapsulates the significance of the #MeToo movement more than any other so far. He has now been freed after serving two years of his 3-10 year sentence after a top court overturned his conviction.

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