AN arrogant sexual predator who abused children in care homes where he worked has been jailed for 15 years.

Bruce McLean, 62, abused children in the 1970s and 80s when he was a residential care worker in Derbyshire and Knutsford. He also abused a boy who was a resident at Rosebank care home in Warrington when McLean’s father worked there. The boys he abused had all been placed in the care homes by local authorities for their protection.

Judge Patrick Thompson branded McLean, from Moore, an arrogant 'sexual predator'

He blasted: "You treated these boys as your sexual playthings. You were young and friendly and groomed these boys with trips to Manchester United and furnished them with Adidas clothing to make them compliant. If that didn't work you would threaten them. this was the actions of a sexual predator. I can't imagine a greater breach of trust of a person who was in a position of such responsibility.

"Your only concern being your own sexual gratification."

He said McLean - whose role was to care for vulnerable children - showed a 'complete lack of remorse' to any of his victims.

He said many boys had come from broken homes and were left 'bewildered. and in 'need of care and kindness' which McLean used took advantage of.

He added: "You stole their childhood, their innocence and by refusing to accept responsibility and forcing them to relive what you had done you finally stole their dignity. It is clear you have no compassion or remorse for the damage you have caused."

In November he was found guilty at Chester Crown Court of 13 charges relating to four victims, but the jury could not reach a verdict on the other charges. On July 25 he was found guilty of nine counts of sexual assaults against four victims.

He was acquitted of all counts of assault against another complainant.

Today, Monday, at Chester Crown Court he was sentenced to a total of 15 years in prison and was told that he will remain on the Sexual Offenders Register for life.

McLean was previously sentenced to nine years in prison for similar offences against children. In 1997 he was convicted of 10 offences of sexual assaults against children. The recent charges followed an operation by Cheshire Police in 2016 to look into further allegations against him.

Rachael Barber, from Mersey-Cheshire Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Bruce McLean sexually abused vulnerable young boys that he was supposed to protect. They had been placed in care and were particularly vulnerable and easy to exploit.

“McLean came across to these impressionable boys as someone they could turn to. He had friends on the Manchester United Football team and regularly took boys in his care to watch them train. He would also buy them presents and clothes.

“These vulnerable children enjoyed the attention but McLean’s motives were sinister. Some of the victims have since struggled to lead emotionally healthy lives and have lived for years with this. The Crown Prosecution Service would like to thank them for their courage in helping bring this prosecution and hope that the verdicts and sentence bring some sense of justice.”

The court previously heard McLean knew players at Manchester United, including club legend goalkeeper Gary Bailey, and would take children from Kilrie to training sessions at The Cliff ground.

McLean said Mr Bailey had come up with the idea to visit the home, along with other footballers, as a way to stop the children getting bullied at school but then McLean used this as a gateway to abuse.

He would shower the boys with free sportswear and trips to training games and then molest them afterwards.

In one home Taxal Edge, where Mclean previously worked, paedophile soccer coach Barry Bennell later also became a care worker and went on to abuse more victims.

Both sick perverts used their connections at Manchester United as part of their grooming process.

Now a dad-of-three who was abused by McLean during his two years at a children's home in the late 1970s has bravely decided to speak out about his ordeal.

After a near four decade wait for justice he is now taking legal action over his ordeal.

The victim – whose evidence in court helped to jail McLean – was sent to the Taxal Edge home as a nine-year-old boy after getting into trouble at his primary school.

He says the home was ruled with an iron fist and the 'constant threat of violence' and if he tried to escape he was always brought back by the police.

He says this allowed McLean and other care home staff to abuse victims with impunity.

The victim, who lives in Cheshire and wishes to remain anonymous, said: "It was horrendous, a very scary place to be as a child and there was no escape. They could abuse you and do what they wanted with impunity. It's disgraceful that sort of thing went unchecked. We were just kids. These people were not only in charge of children and using them as sex objects but they were also getting paid for it. There was no way that those responsible for running the home didn't know what was going on. I have to live with the effects of his abuse for the rest of my life, but hopefully now this sentence will give me and other victims some sort of closure."

He told how McLean would regularly "fondle his genitals" while pretending to restrain him in front of other boys.

He said: "It was the perfect cover. He would restrain me for no reason. Then he would start groping my testicles. I would start resisting and shouting and this would excite him and give him the justification he needed to restrain me further and grope me more. I had no chance as a nine year old against a grown man. We were just kids - it's disgusting."

The victim, now in his 50s, used to live in a dorm with other boys and was also attacked by another worker who used to prowl the rooms at night in white underpants.

He also told how McLean would wake him in the middle of the night and lock him and another pupil in the gym while they abused other pupils.

He said: "It was a regular occurrence, a few times a month. We used to be in there for hours. me and my pal were a bit streetwise so they were locking us in so they could abuse the more vulnerable kids."

The abuse had a profound effect on most of his life and he has been plagued by drug addiction and prison and has battled with flashbacks and depression.

He said: "I have night terrors and sweats and it has affected all my relationships."

But he says now he has turned his life around to become a health worker helping people suffering with addiction.

McLean was jailed in 1997 for nine years for sexual abuse on boys while working at Cheshire based care home Kilrie.

At the time of his arrest he was also a helper at Cheshire- based children's charity the Adventure Farm Trust – a holiday haven for sick, disabled and disadvantage children.

In January last year ex-fireman McLean was charged again after more ex care home pupils contacted the police to say they were victims of historic sexual abuse.

He was originally investigated in 2013 but his case we opened again in 2015 when even more victims came forward.

McLean, of Runcorn Road, Moore, also bragged of 'burying a boy' in the grounds of a large house in Nantwich to keep one of his victims quiet after he had abused him.

Peter Garsden head of abuse at Simpson Millar solicitors - branded the paedophile 'cold and callous' and urged other victims to come forward.

He has already successfully sued authorities over McLean in the past for abuse gaining victims over £100,000 in compensation and is now representing more victims.

He said: “This is one of the most prolific offenders I have dealt with. He ruled the care homes he worked in by fear and abused with impunity for years.

"He is a cold, callous and calculating individual who knew just what to do to target vulnerable boys.

"There appears to have been plenty of opportunities that seem to have been missed that allowed him to carry on abusing boys in his care. We will be lodging legal claims on behalf of victims with the relevant authorities over the next few months.

"In my experience, in situations like this, I estimate there will be at least another hundred affected victims who are yet to speak out and many of these will be in the Cheshire area. But now they can come forward knowing they are not alone.

"Despite Mclean being jailed today this is not the end for the victims as they continue to suffer a life sentence. But hopefully it will bring a small sense of closure."