POLICE are investigating a nationwide paedophile ring of scoutmasters after a North-East man was jailed for 11 years for abusing youngsters in his care.

Paul Woodruff, 43, made sex videos with Scouts at his Teesside home, where police seized his collection of 16,000 Internet child porn images.

A London scoutmaster, referred to as Uncle David, was caught with one of the videos which had been filmed for him by Woodruff, a close friend.

Child Protection Unit officers from Cleveland are now liaising with Metropolitan Police officers in Harrow, London, over the case.

Sources close to the investigation have revealed that as many as nine London scoutmasters could be linked to Woodruff's activities.

Woodruff and his 76-year-old mother were driven by neighbours from their council house on the Brambles Farm estate, Middlesbrough, after a former Scout reported him to the police two years ago.

Ian Skelt, prosecuting at Teesside Crown Court, said police seized films, Scout uniforms, sailor suits and nappies from Woodruff.

He had begun grooming his victims at the Scout group where he was second in command.

The court heard how he regularly took the boys to meet other leaders in London.

Youngsters were also taken on trips to Beamish Museum, County Durham, and to Kildale, in the North York Moors, which were sometimes arranged with Uncle David.

Woodruff's barrister, Graham Reeds, said that he was in a grip of a "pathetic situation" which he likened to being addicted to drugs.

Woodruff was convicted of the rape and two indecent assaults of a Scout.

He pleaded guilty to another indecent assault on the youngster, indecently assaulting two more Scouts, and to another 15 charges of making indecent photographs of children between 1995 and 1997.

Woodruff, of Lowfield Avenue, Middlesbrough, was jailed for ten years for rape, another 12 months for child pornography, banned from working with children for life, and ordered to register as a sex offender for life.

Judge John Walford said: "It is apparent that these offences were part of a sustained course of sexual abuse.

"You befriended and won the trust of boys, principally, it would seem, from your position in the Scouts.

"You gained their trust, gained the confidence of their parents so that they were allowed to come and visit you and stay at your house, and you cruelly abused that trust and that confidence by sexually abusing them for your own gratification."

Outside court, one of his victims said: "This is an evil man who does not regret what he has done and deserves to be punished."

Since his ordeal at the hands of the sex fiend, the victim described how he had suffered recurring nightmares, flash-backs, constant depression and how he had had to give up a college course.

Welcoming the sentence imposed on Woodruff, he said: "It is an enormous relief that he has gone to prison for such a long time.

"I know he is not going to have an easy time in prison, and while I don't wish him to be harmed I want him to have as miserable a time as possible for as long as possible."

His biggest relief, he said, was that Woodruff would not be allowed to go near, or be involved with, children for the rest of his life.

The former Scout also called for police checks to be extended to everyone who is involved with any children's organisations.

The victim's mother praised her son's courage in going through the ordeal of having to give evidence at the trial.

She said: "I was physically sick to discover the betrayal of somebody we had trusted. If you cannot feel safe sending your child to the Scouts, where can you send them?"

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said their inquiry was in its early stages.

He said: "We are liaising with our colleagues at Cleveland, but these things take time.

"Such crimes are often historical in nature and the perpetrators often move about to different parts of the country."

Detective Constable Jeff Ingledew, of Cleveland Police, who helped lead the investigation, said he would not be surprised if other victims were to come forward.

He said: "Woodruff has cynically used the Scouting movement to get access to boys, and there may be other people out there that we don't know about.

"He has shown the wiles of the classic paedophile predator, abusing a position of trust to gain the friendship of families and then targeting the children.

"Without a victim being brave enough to come forward we would have had nothing."