A Scarborough-born policeman rescued two terrified children from the clutches of a paedophile, after he’d snatched them as they played.
PC Rob Atkin said a “hunch” lead him to dangerous Alan Chater’s car, where the serial sex offender was laughing as he abused the crying boys.
The former St Augustine’s pupil helped rescue the children before stopping the pensioner from escaping.
Depraved Chater has now been jailed for 12-and-a-half years, with PC Atkin saying that helping to bring him to justice was the highlight of his career.
“I’ve been involved in a lot of good investigations during 17 years as a police officer.
“But I would have to say that this one has been the definitive moment of my career,” said the 40-year-old.
“We saved those two boys from potentially even worse harm.
“We perhaps even saved their lives by intervening at that moment.”
The traumatic incident occurred in a Leeds car park on February 4 this year.
The the 65-year-old lorry driver snatched the children - aged nine and 11 - before telling them to remove their trousers.
In the meantime, PC Atkin and his partner followed their gut instinct while driving around the area, and headed to the car park.
Upon arriving, they found Chater’s car and spotted the youngsters’ heads inside - then Chater’s.
Knowing something was up, they used their squad car to block the car in, rescue the children and arrest Chater.
“Never in a million years would I have thought I’d witness an offence like that.
“I dread to think what could have happened if my partner and I had not stopped Chater when we did,” said the officer.
“It was a hunch and experience that lead myself and my colleague to go and take a closer look at Chater’s car.
“I would really like to think I was in that place at that time for a reason.”
Upon arriving home that night, the enormity of what had happened dawned on PC Atkin.
He said he realised that had he simply turned up two minutes later, Chater’s actions could have had far graver consequences.
One of the children, the court heard, thought he was going to die at Chater’s hands.
Leeds Crown Court heard a rucksack was in the Vauxhall Corsa which contained condoms, towels and other items to be used on victims during the attack.
Simon Batiste, prosecuting, said: “He had a kit designed for further sexual activity. The prosecution submits that this demonstrates the premeditated nature of the offences committed.”
Chater, of Cardinal Road, Beeston, Leeds, pleaded guilty to two offences of kidnapping, two of causing or inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity and breach of a sexual offences prevention order.
Chater has a history of sexual and violent offences dating back to the 1970s.
He has served prison sentences for serious sex offences against youngsters, taking photographs of children and outraging public decency.
His crimes have largely been committed in the North East.
He was the subject of a community order at the time of his latest offences.
That sentence was imposed after he breached his sexual offences prevention order by failing to tell his employer about his criminal past in order to get driving work.
Marcus Waite, mitigating, said Chater would be an old man upon his release from prison. He must serve a prison term of seven-and-a-half years followed by a five-year period on licence.
The judge said: “These are children who were taken from the street and are unlikely to feel safe while walking the street for the remainder of their lives.”
Police have now praised PC Atkin’s use of “traditional” police work to capture Chater.
And Det Chief Insp Mark Griffin, of Leeds District Safeguarding, praised the courage of Chater’s victims throughout the legal proceedings.
“Alan Chater is clearly a very dangerous man and we welcome his sentencing and conviction,” he said.
“He kidnapped his young victims from the street and subjected them to what must have been a truly frightening experience.
“They have shown great bravery subsequently and our thoughts remain with them.
“Chater was caught thanks to traditional skills of police officers who saw his car at a distance while patrolling and on suspecting something was wrong, went up to investigate, an excellent example of police work.
“The streets of Leeds are safer today with Chater today beginning a lengthy custodial sentence which may well see him behind bars for a long time.”
Chater spent much of the last decade behind bars for a series of vile attacks.
In 1996, an eight-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl were indecently assaulted and threatened with a knife.
Further offences took place in 2000 by the River Tyne in Hebburn and Jarrow.
It was while he was on bail for another offence that he travelled to Carlisle and molested a young boy in the public toilet