SOMETIMES, ALL it would take was that most vain of celebrity questions: "Do you recognise me?" Then Jonathan King's sex abuse would begin.
As King began a seven-year sentence yesterday for sexually assaulting five boys, the full extent to which he had used his fame to lure victims to his home became clear. His friends and fans found it hard to believe, but the man who calls himself "the King of Hits" was abusing youngsters for a period that may have spanned three decades.
His modus operandi was crass and devious. He would approach children, sometimes with their parents and sometimes in one of his five Rolls-Royces, and ask if they would like to take part in "market research" into youth trends. Often overawed, they would accompany him to his home in Bayswater, west London, and then be subjected to "research" that ended in masturbation, oral sex and, in at least one case, buggery.
The television presenter admitted he had conducted market research with up to 30,000 children. How many he abused may never be known, but police believe there are other victims too traumatised to come forward.
King's secret life was revealed in November last year when one of his victims, known only as KM, came forward after being counselled for addiction brought on by depression. Ironically for King, a former Radio One presenter, the victim had approach the National Criminal Intelligence Service after reading about the Radio One DJ Chris Denning being jailed for abusing boys in the Czech Republic.
His depression, he told detectives, had been brought on by a sexual encounter with King in 1970, when he was 15, during which he was buggered.
After a brief investigation by Surrey Police, King was charged with buggery and indecency and attempted buggery with a second victim, known as R, when R was 15. The publicity resulted in 27 other people coming forward, of which 22 made statements alleging buggery, attempted buggery or sexual assault.
King denied the claims, describing his victims as fantasists and arguing there was no evidence that crimes had even taken place. But if these men were fantasists, their fantasies were remarkably similar.
The experience of one, who is now 32 and lives in St Neots, Cambridgeshire, was typical. During the first of three court cases, the result of which was withheld to avoid prejudicing the others, the victim said King approached him in Soho after he had been refused access to a peep show. He was 14.
"The first thing he asked me was did I recognise him," the victim told the court. "I thought he must be a friend of my dad's. He said he was off the TV. He said he was on music shows and Top of the Pops and stuff like that. I was gobsmacked.
"I was a bit dubious but when he pointed to the car, a big brown Rolls- Royce, and I saw the licence plate, I thought `corr!' He really is who he says he is."
He said King then ushered him into a peep show, paid for them both after whispering to a woman on the door, and accompanied him into a booth. "He pulled my trousers down and started masturbating me," the victim said. "I looked round and he was masturbating too."
He then took the boy to his home and questioned him about sex - something he did with all his victims as part of his research, with questions on drugs, music, sport, and family life. He said he could get a girl round for the boy and began showing him pornographic pictures and a sex video.
"I thought he was going to ring up his girlfriend and get her to come round for sex," the victim said. Instead, he was told to take off his clothes and King performed oral sex on him before buggering him.
Astonishingly, afterwards he gave the boy, previously a virgin, pounds 40 and drove him to Trafalgar Square where he had arranged to meet his mother. The victim said similar events took place on another five or six occasions over the next two years up to 1985.
David Jeremy, for the prosecution, told the jury in the first trial, held in September: "Typically, they will have been picked up in the street while [he was] driving in his car or [he] approached them on foot. They would have been told very quickly who he was and told of his fame.
"He would have conversations with them about music before taking their telephone numbers. He would later call them and invite them to his home. He would hand them presents of records and T-shirts before asking about their interests, often bringing the subject around to sex.
"He said he knew of girls who would be available to them and showed them photos and videos of sexual scenes and naked women. When aroused he would masturbate them or perform oral sex and sometimes buggery."
One victim told how King went for dinner at his parents' home during the period he was being abused. Another described how his playground friends were jealous of his friendship with the celebrity. And it appears some believed King might make them famous.
One, now 33, described being approached by King in Trafalgar Square, when he was 15 and visiting the capital with his sister. King later rang the family's home in Luton, Bedfordshire, and invited the boy to visit his house. The first visit was described as "exciting", but on four later occasions pornography was produced and the boy was sexually assaulted.