Watkins was born in Merthyr Tydfil, and later moved to Pontypridd, where he attended Hawthorn High School with future bandmate Mike Lewis. He completed a degree in graphic design from the University of Wales, Newport, graduating with first-class honours.
Lewis' and Watkins' mutual enjoyment of rock and metal music strengthened their friendship, leading them, as teenagers in 1991, to form a group called Aftermath, a thrash metal band that played in a shed in Watkins' garden. Whilst spending time in the local Ynysangharad Park, where (17 years later) Lostprophets would headline the Full Ponty festival, Watkins was introduced to future band mate Lee Gaze through a mutual friend. Having abandoned Aftermath, which made two live appearances in its lifespan of two years, Watkins and Gaze decided to form a new band called Fleshbind, based on their American hardcore punk influences. The band played several shows, including one supporting Feeder in London, but the group was short-lived.
Watkins reunited with Mike Lewis as a drummer in a hardcore band called Public Disturbance, formed in 1995. By this time, Watkins and Gaze had left Fleshbind to create their own band, Lost Prophets, who made their live debut in May 1997 alongside Public Disturbance, with Watkins as the lead vocalist. In 1998, Watkins left Public Disturbance to concentrate on the newly named lostprophets (all lower-case letters).
On New Year's Eve 2008, Watkins took part in a concert for Kidney Wales Foundation and stated that his reasons for being involved were as a result of his mother needing a kidney transplant: "Having that direct experience is why I wanted to get more involved with Kidney Wales and organise a fundraising concert on New Year's Eve." The concert featured Welsh bands the Blackout, Kids in Glass Houses, and Attack! Attack!
Watkins was also featured in The Blackout's song 'It's High Tide Baby', and also accompanied them on tour.
In 2009, Watkins started a remixing side project called "L'Amour La Morgue". He has released 17 remixes by artists such as the Killers, Beyoncé, Young Guns, Magic Wands, Tears for Fears, and Bring Me the Horizon. He has also released a free mixtape, which is available online, along with a free download of a song that was premiered at a fashion show in 2008.
Lostprophets recorded five albums: The Fake Sound of Progress, Start Something, Liberation Transmission, The Betrayed, and Weapons. They toured extensively in Europe and America, playing shows such as the Reading and Leeds Festivals in 2004, 2007, 2009, and 2010.
On 19 December 2012, Watkins was charged with conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with a one-year-old girl, and with possession and/or distribution of indecent images of children and "extreme animal pornography", charges which were heard at Cardiff magistrates court. He was remanded in custody as were his two female co-accused. His barrister said Watkins would deny the accusations. On 31 December, he appeared at Cardiff Crown Court via video link from HM Prison Parc in Bridgend, and was remanded in custody until 11 March 2013. The case was adjourned until May, with the trial date set for 15 July. At a hearing on 3 June, he denied the charges via a video link.
On 6 June, it was announced that the trial would start on 25 November and was expected to last a month. A previous application for the court venue to be moved outside Wales was denied. On 26 November, Watkins pleaded guilty to attempted rape and sexual assault of a child under 13, but not guilty to rape. This was accepted by the prosecution. He further pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual assault involving children and six involving taking, making or possessing indecent images of children and one of possessing an extreme pornographic image involving a sex act on an animal. Watkins' victims included a baby boy, and he sent an SMS text message to the mother of one, saying: "If you belong to me, so does your baby." South Wales Police's investigation into Watkins, codenamed "Operation Globe", required the cooperation of GCHQ to decrypt a hidden drive on his laptop, which was then found to contain video of his abuses. It was later revealed that on 27 November, the day after his guilty plea had been accepted by the prosecution, Watkins had referred to his sex offences as being "mega lolz" in a recorded phone call made from HM Prison Parc to a female fan.
A sentencing hearing was held at Cardiff on 18 December 2013. In mitigation, Watkins' barrister, Sally O'Neill QC, said that he had no recollection of the case involving the attempted rape, but had "belatedly realised the gravity of what happened" having developed an "obsession" with videoing himself having sex. Mr Justice Royce sentenced Watkins to 29 years in prison, with eligibility to apply for parole after serving two-thirds of his prison term, followed by six years of supervised release. His two co-defendants, mothers of his victims known as "Woman A" and "Woman B", received sentences of 14 and 17 years' imprisonment, respectively. The judge said the case "plunged into new depths of depravity". A senior investigating officer on the case described Watkins as a "committed, organised paedophile" and "potentially the most dangerous sex offender" he had ever seen.
Watkins was transferred from HM Prison Parc, where he had been incarcerated while on remand, to HM Prison Wakefield to begin serving his sentence.
Watkins was transferred to HM Prison Long Lartin on 25 January 2014, so that he could be closer to his mother after she had a kidney transplant. He was subsequently transferred to HM Prison Rye Hill.
An Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation report published in summer 2016 said that three detectives from the South Wales force should face disciplinary action after they failed to act on earlier allegations of abuse by Watkins from 2008 onward.
A further IPCC report, published in August 2017, found that police had failed a number of times from 2008 to 2012 act on reports of Watkins' behaviour, quoting a detective who said that Watkins had "a number of fans and ex-girlfriends making allegations that when investigated are false". The report concluded:
The consequence of the force’s failings was arguably that a predatory paedophile offended over an extended period of time. The evidence obtained in this investigation suggests that South Wales police were faced with a litany of reports about his behaviour, yet in some instances did not carry out even rudimentary investigation, made errors and omissions and missed opportunities to bring him to justice earlier than he ultimately was.
South Wales Police Assistant Chief Constable Jeremy Vaughan said his force "entirely accepts and regrets" the findings of the report.Public Disturbance
4-Way Tie Up (1997)
UKHC Compilation (1997)
Victim of Circumstance (1998)
The Fake Sound of Progress (2000)
Start Something (2004)
Liberation Transmission (2006)
The Betrayed (2010)