An officer honoured for his part in uncovering a pagan paedophile ring has paid tribute to the “real courage and inner strength” of the perverts' victims.

Falmouth Detective Constable Rick Milburn was praised alongside colleagues DC Sarah Brown and PC Rich McSweeney, both based out of Camborne, at the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly police commander's awards.

The trio helped bring to justice Peter Petrauske, aged 73, and Jack Kemp, aged 69, who were jailed for a combined total of 32 years at Truro Crown Court in December.

The paedo pair were found guilty of “ritualistic, sickening abuse” in the Falmouth area, where victims as young as three were violated during the 1970s and 1980s, the court heard.

DC Milburn said that, while he was grateful of the recognition, “real praise should be levelled towards the victims” who showed “real courage and inner strength” during the lengthy investigation.

“I sincerely hope they are able to continue rebuilding their lives,” he said.

The detective requested that he was posted to Operation Margate, as the investigation was known, after it began in July 2011.

He was cited for his handling of the “extremely complex and difficult” case, where he “calmly managed the very many twists and turns throughout” and was praised for “meticulously” planning the arrest and interview phase.

Meetings with the general public and briefings prepared for his fellow officers by DC Milburn not only helped to quell local outrage at the case but also led to further witnesses coming forward.

PC McSweeney and DC Brown, meanwhile, were appointed as sexual offence liaison officers and helped the officer in charge to focus on collaring Petrauske and Kemp by gaining the trust of the victims and preparing them for court.

Police commander for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Superintendent Julie Fielding, commended “a truly outstanding investigation dealt with by DC Milburn with commitment, passion and lateral thinking, despite many barriers being put in his way.”

“The victims are relieved and grateful that after over 20 years they have been taken seriously and have finally secured justice,” she said at the awards ceremony in Bodmin earlier this month.

“After a difficult, high profile, three week trial the two defendants were sentenced to 14 years and 18 years in prison. I have pleasure in awarding DC Milburn, DC Brown and PC McSweeney a commander's certificate.”

After expressing his gratitude DC Milburn said he hoped other victims of any form of sexual abuse would feel confident in speaking to the police “when ready”.

“Knowing that we will listen, we will support and we will fully investigate their complaints,” he said.

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