A former soldier “hid behind his fireman persona” to abduct a 12-year-old boy, a court has heard.

Anthony Lingard, aged 38 of Jethro Street, Bolton, was a serving firefighter based at Ramsbottom Fire Station when he repeatedly allowed a then 12-year-old boy to stay over at his house and let him drink alcohol by posing as his friend’s father.

Brought before Minshull Street Crown Court, Judge Angela Neild heard Lingard he lied to the boy’s parents about this and once the boy was in his home, he would allow him to drink alcohol and took him on camping trips.

Nicola Carroll, prosecuting, said: “He consistently led them to think he was the father of their son’s friend.”

Ms Carroll told the court how Lingard, who then lived at Schofield Street, Radcliffe, had lied in this way five separate times between July 2019 and January 2020 and allowed the boys to drink alcohol and smoke vapes.

Ms Carroll said: “In effect the were allowed to do what they wanted at the defendant’s house and they returned time and time again.”

He also took him and his friends on camping trips, at one point “cuddling up” next to the boy in his tent.

Lingard, a former soldier who has also served as a police community support officer before his 13 years with the fire service, was only stopped after word spread through the boy’s school.

Teachers became involved, followed by police who eventually interviewed Lingard.

Having originally pleaded not guilty to five abduction charges, Lingard then changed his pleas to guilty “at the last moment” to avoid a trial on August 31 last year.

A victim impact statement from the boy’s father said that their “trust is shattered” after Lingard “hid behind his fireman persona".

Andrew Evans, defending, argued that there was no sexual intent and said some of Lingard’s actions could be explained by his” childish” impulses and by after effects of traumatic experiences in his earlier life,

Mr Evans asked for more time for a psychological report to be compiled on his client before he was sentenced.

Judge Neild then adjourned the case to September 9 this autumn.