A SENIOR residential care worker who "groomed" boys before sexually abusing them, and took one victim on trips to Africa, has been jailed for nine years.

John Duncan, 48, of Guernsey Road, Grindon, Sunderland, subjected his victims to "prolonged and repeated" sexual abuse, a judge said yesterday.

At a hearing last month, the unmarried defendant admitted specimen counts of indecent assault on two boys and a serious sexual assault on one of them at two homes in the 1980s and 1990s.

At Newcastle Crown Court yesterday, Duncan was jailed for nine years, with a further three years under close supervision, and placed on the Sex Offenders' Register indefinitely.

Robert Woodcock, prosecuting, said Duncan was not a violent man but may have used his non-confrontational approach to gain his victims' trust.

The boys, who were not even teenagers when Duncan started grooming them, could have misconstrued Duncan's indecent acts as gestures of affection, Mr Woodcock said.

One of the boys, now in his 30s, recalled crying and being comforted by Duncan before he molested him.

The complainant was given a room of his own so Duncan - who worked at the Shotley Park home in County Durham, run by Barnardo's - could abuse him more easily, the court was told.

The second boy came under Duncan's supervision as an eight-year-old at Feversham Home, Newcastle, and was lavished with affection and gifts, Mr Woodcock said.

He took the boy on trips around the country, and on at least two occasions on holiday to Africa, Mr Woodcock said.

Paul Sloan, defending, said his client decided to plead guilty so that the complainants did not have to go through the ordeal of a trial.

Judge David Hodson told Duncan, who sat in the dock with his arms folded as the evidence was read out, his behaviour had been "deviant".

He said: "Quite clearly, you subjected these complainants to a prolonged and repeated period of abuse.

"They came into your care as damaged personalities and, as a result of what you did, their personalities became even more damaged."

There were cheers from the public gallery as the judge told Duncan his sentence.

After the case, Barnardo's regional director Jonathan Ewen said: "I'm appalled that children had to endure what they did from somebody they should have been able to trust, and want to extend my sympathy to them for what they have gone through over the years.