TIMOTHY Edmeades, a teaching assistant at a local school, has just started a 33 month jail sentence for grooming and sexually assaulting young boys put in his trust in a Thurrock cub scout group.

Probably in less than two years he will be out on the streets again.

Reputable people in the borough, including a former mayor and councillor, have spoken up for him. Local cub scout leaders have been accused of closing ranks to protect him.

And the headmaster at his school lost his job for not carrying out appropriate checks on the man who proved to be a child-molesting pervert.

It's a story that has devastated several borough families who feel they have been let down by the system.

One of Edmeades' victims was eight when the abuse started. He's 10 now. He still cries when he's on his own. His parents have to listen to him sobbing behind his closed bedroom door. He has told his distraught father he doesn't think his life is worth living any more.

To put it bluntly - he and his family have a life sentence. Other boys and their families have voiced similar stories. They are struggling to come to terms with what they can only describe as a nightmare.

It's a sordid, harrowing story - and one that still has many unanswered questions. Asking many of them is a 45 year-old Aveley dad.

His world exploded two years ago when police arrived on his front doorstep to tell him his son and another youngster had bravely called telephone helpline Childline to expose the man who had laughed, joked and shared a drink in the family sitting room.

The same man who had won families' trust is a man who kept images of a four-year-old boy being raped on his computer.

It's every parent's nightmare. With tears brimming in his harrowed eyes, this anguished dad has now called for a further major probe into the case that has shattered his world.

Talking exclusively to the Gazette he said: "I still struggle to come to terms with what has happened. This man, if you can call him a man, worked his manipulative way into the system. He had a job at a local school.

"He worked his way through several scout and cub packs. He systematically picked out children, won over their trust and that of their parents, then he sexually abused them.

"Now he's been found guilty but he's got a very short sentence while my son is serving a lifetime one.

"I can't begin to tell you what it's like. I wasn't at home when the police came. My wife had to ring me and tell me. It was as if the whole of our world had just gone. Can you imagine the guilt, the anguish and the pain we feel?

"Edmeades sat in our home, laughing and talking to us and our son and at the same time he was plotting how to abuse our boy.

"Our son has to live with this. Can you imagine what it's like? We hear him crying in the bath, when he's alone in his bed and he sometimes comes up and tells us he thinks his life is worthless.

"Yet despite this, can you also imagine how brave he and his friend were when they decided to call Childline? They couldn't tell us but they made sure the truth came out in the end.

"Not that it has been easy. Some people just didn't want to know, there are people in the scouting world now who still say that Edmeades is innocent, they won't hear a word against him despite the fact that he has been proven to be guilty. Why is that? We need more answers."

Edmeades, 33, was charged with assaulting two local boys. Other parents have spoken to the Gazette about their fears that there has been a conspiracy to protect the pervert.

The cub pack where he was a leader was briefly suspended by the scouting organisation but the parents fear a whitewash as it has now been reopened.

One dad said: "They didn't do their job properly in letting him get involved. Even now, when it's been proven otherwise and when some of the vile things that he's been doing have been exposed, they still say he is innocent.

"What is worrying is why they would do that. Are there other people involved? Is there some sort of conspiracy? The only way for us to be sure is for a root and branch inquiry either by the scouts' top brass or an independent organisation to go into this in every aspect. This should never be allowed to happen again."

One of the charges levelled against Edmeades in court was perverting the course of justice. Using his computer skills he attempted to discredit the children and parents say he was manipulative beyond belief, creating a plausible background to cover up his evil.

Among his supporters at Basildon Crown Court was former borough mayor and current councillor Gerard Rice. In a statement to the court he said: "Mr Edmeades worked for me from May 1997 to January 2001 at Benson Bedstore in Lakeside retail park, Lakeside. He was trustworthy, diligent, totally reliable with our customers and gave the company good service "He also assisted me throughout my term as mayor of Thurrock, dealing with many constituents, case work and helping at civil functions at the council."

Two of the parents of abused children are so angered by councillor Rice's support for Edmeades that they have made a formal complaint to the council and the matter has been reported to the authority's standards committee.

However, councillor Rice says he too is a victim of Edmeades' persuasive powers. Currently out of the country he called the Gazette to say: "I was unaware of the nature of the charges against him. He asked me for a reference saying he was involved in a minor court case.

"Clearly he has duped me. I cannot in anyway condone what he has done or support him and I can only apologise to the families of his victims for my naivety in giving him this reference."

One man who has already paid a price for his association with Edmeades is former Kenningtons Primary School headteacher Peter Minter.

Edmeades worked at the school and in 2006 a veil of secrecy was thrown around the head's suspension from duty because of allegations concerning Edmeades.

Allegations from parents followed over Mr Minter's conduct and he eventually lost his job. Thurrock Council, refused to give the reasons why but it is believed that a failure to conduct CRB checks was one of the reasons.

At the time a spokesperson for the governors of Kenningtons said: "It would be inappropriate for the governing body to confirm or deny the current situation regarding any member of staff.

"We are able to confirm that the school's disciplinary process is being applied against a member of staff and the process will continue."

An Essex police spokesperson said: "Other agencies have raised some concern with Essex police and we are making some enquiries."

Those enquiries eventually led to the prosecution of Edmeades.

The affair reached a conclusion when he appeared at Southend Crown Court last week and was jailed for 33 months, a far from adequate sentence according to some parents and even the police.

The mother of one of the abused boys said the sentence was "appalling." She said: "I don't think it is long enough," while investigating police officer Det Sgt Anita Taylor said: "I am disappointed with the sentence."

Families in Aveley involved say they are left in a strange limbo. They want to put the matter behind them and their children, but feel not enough has yet been done to investigate what happened.

Their fears were summed up by the father of one boy who finally broke down in tears when saying: "Our trust has been abused. Our children's trust has been abused. Edmeades is a manipulative, evil person who will serve a short term and then have to sign a sex offender's register that really means nothing.

"He can change his name and disappear and he appears to have friends who still believe in him and want to protect him. Who protects our children? And who is really interested at getting into the truth? Who wants to really make sure this doesn't happen again?"