A woman who made international headlines after brutally stabbing her elderly paedophile neighbour to death has finally revealed her true motive for the grisly crime.
Sarah Sands killed Michael Pleasted, 77, in a frenzied attack after discovering the man next door was a child sex offender with three young victims in the neighbourhood – including her own 12-year-old son.
At the time, no one knew the vast extent of the man’s horror past, having groomed and assaulted countless boys before changing his name upon release from prison. He’d lived in his East London flat for 16 years before his monstrous behaviour caught up with him again.
During her trial, Ms Sands said learning of Pleasted’s past was the reason she killed him after snapping, but now for the first time she and her son Bradley have revealed the truth.
“I did what any mother would do because he did this to my son Bradley, my little boy,” she exclusively told Britain’s The Sun newspaper.
The pair was even quite close for a time.
The cheery old man was well known in her housing estate and Ms Sands had always found him pleasant.
When he offered her son Bradley, a job at the community centre where he worked, she thought it would be a good opportunity.
“Mick was a role model,” she told The Sun. “I had no reason not to trust him. I thought Bradley was safe.”
But his closeness with children eventually led to whispers and taunts from other locals and Ms Sands took pity, dropping by for cups of tea and making Pleasted meals.
The predator next door began grooming her son before abusing him in the shop and his home, just metres from his unknowing mum.
Bradley abruptly quit his job and became moody, Ms Sands recalled. Eventually, he revealed what had happened to him.
“I found him pulling out his hair, rocking, shaking and crying. I felt sick and heartbroken.”
Ms Sands called the police and they suggested she move, so she packed up her kids and went to stay with her mother.
Later, a heavily intoxicated Ms Sands returned to her home, got a knife from the kitchen and went to confront Pleasted.
The mother-of-five stabbed him five times, killing him.
“I never dreamt I’d be capable,” she recalled “I have no pride in it but at least I know he can’t hurt anyone else.
“I’m not a bad person but I know I did a bad thing. I’ve never denied that and I’ve been punished.
“I’d never kill again. I don’t see myself as a murderer. But I don’t regret what I did. I was a mum desperate to protect my children.”
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‘I took care of him – I stabbed him’
A few weeks before Pleasted was killed, police arrived at the estate in the suburb of Canning Town to arrest and charge him with the sexual assault of two boys aged under 13.
He was also being investigated for the abuse of a third boy.
Despite that, he was released on bail to await trial and allowed to return home to his flat, which overlooked a school and a playground.
Given his closeness to Pleasted, investigators called in Bradley for questioning and he confided in them that he too had been attacked.
Ms Sands didn’t know until weeks later on November 28, 2014 when she found her boy in a hysterical state.
“He kept saying: ‘I should have told you before — that could have stopped him getting those younger boys.’”
Distraught, she downed two bottles of wine and, heavily intoxicated, returned to her flat to confront Pleasted.
Her intention was to plead with him to confess, saving Bradley from having to testify at an eventual trial, she says. Pleasted smirked at her and said his victims were liars trying to ruin his life, before he lunged at her and grabbed her arm.
“I was frightened. It was not how it was meant to go. He was meant to listen to me. He wouldn’t listen to me. He was cold. A different man to the one who had been my friendly neighbour.
“I poked him in his front with the knife and he grabbed me. I lost control. I couldn’t let anyone else get hurt, somebody had to protect people.”
She stabbed him five times with a 30cm kitchen knife in what the court found was a “frenzied” and “sustained” attack that didn’t instantly kill Pleasted.
He crawled into the hallway of his flat and died in a pool of his own blood.
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Ms Sands handed herself in to police and under questioning said she “took care of him – I stabbed him” out of a sense of desperation.
“Is he dead?” she asked police. When told that Pleasted had died, Ms Sands said: ‘He can’t hurt kids now.’
Police knew about Bradley’s abuse but it wasn’t revealed as a motive during her trial because she wanted to protect him.
Now 19, Bradley said he had nightmares that “Mick would come after me”.
The monster living next door
During her trial, the shocking extent of Pleasted’s life of unspeakable crime emerged – he had abused countless children over almost three decades.
But due to a loophole, he never had to disclose his convictions to housing authorities or the community organisation he worked for.
And when concerns first emerged about his closeness with children, police didn’t bother to check a database that would’ve revealed his name change and his sick record.
That record began in 1970 when he first attracted police attention.
Over a span of almost 30 years, Pleasted – then known as Robin Moult before legally changing his name – was convicted 24 times for various child sex offences.
With a new identity and no obligation to disclose his past to anyone, he moved to the Canning Town housing estate in the late 1990s and settled in to his life as Pleasted, a pleasant pensioner.
His job at the community centre gave him authority and respect, as well as access to impressionable young boys.
In 2012, a concerned local reported Pleasted’s unusually close relationship with a boy. Social workers interviewed the child and his family but a complaint wasn’t made.
A total of three calls to police following concerns being raised didn’t raise any red flags, despite his past, because a national database wasn’t checked.
In late 2014, he was arrested and charged for sexually abusing two boys and was being investigated for the assault of a third – Ms Sands’ son, Bradley.
She killed him in November that year.
The case made global headlines and elicited an outpouring of divisive emotion, with observers split on whether the killing was justified or inexcusable.
Nicholas Cooke QC, the presiding judge, described the circumstances as “unique” and believes Ms Sands had lost control of herself, rather than set out to take the law into her own hands.
“This was a case in which the defendant promptly gave herself up to the police in a highly stressed state, never disputed responsibility for the killing as a matter of fact, did not take the opportunity to get rid of evidence and demonstrated remorse,” he said.
“You were a parent placed under enormous pressure who lost control.
“Taking these matters into consideration but acknowledging there must be a limit on mercy when a life has been taken, I reduce the sentence upon you to one of three-and-a-half years imprisonment.
“I have to sentence you for an offence of manslaughter — the unlawful taking of another’s life, but not murder.
“It is necessary for me to stress that such a verdict would not be available to a defendant who is guilty of a considered act of taking the law into her or his own hands or who is involved in vigilante type conduct.”
She received a three-and-a-half-year sentence for manslaughter that was later found to be “unduly lenient” on appeal.
It was more than doubled to seven-and-a-half years. Sands served four years before being released on parole in August 2018.
Ms Sands now lives in Essex with her children and is writing a book.