Published: 11:00, 15 September 2017
A teenage girl was targeted by a paedophile over the internet but she then “blackmailed” £2,000 from him, a court has heard.
And when detectives went to speak to the victim, she refused to co-operate with the investigation into caterer Owen Rees’ vile behaviour.
But police were still able to bring a case against Rees, of William Judge Close, in Tenterden, after police colleagues in the North West discovered he had been involved with others in sharing illegal images and grooming youngsters over Skype.
Now the 36-year-old loner has received a 13-year sentence after admitting nine charges of sexual abuse and possessing illegal images of children.
Canterbury Crown Court heard how Rees – who was in Morocco at the time of the investigation – was arrested at Gatwick Airport in August 2016.
Prosecutor Ben Irwin said that during questioning Rees admitted having sex chats via social media, believing that many of those he was communicating with were children as young as 10 years old.
The court heard how the pervert urged some of those he was chatting with to carry out sex acts with others, and the court heard that some of the conversations were depraved.
He admitted that he knew it was illegal and wrong and he knew he would be caught.
Rees confessed to meeting up with one child in London, and after they had sex in a hotel she began blackmailing him, taking £2,000 in cash from him.
But Mr Irwin told Judge James O’Mahony that when officers tracked down the child, she denied knowing Rees and refused to help.
Guy Wyatt, defending, said Rees was a loner and spent a lot of his life in his bedroom using his computer.
After ruling Rees was dangerous, the judge gave him a nine-year immediate jail sentence and then added another four years to be served on licence when he is finally released.
Judge O’Mahony also asked the police to assure him in writing that the child victim was being protected.
After the hearing, investigating officer Detective Constable Karl Brett said: "This was a fast moving investigation, requiring liaison overseas and with other forces, and urgent enquiries to identify and safeguard victims.
"I am satisfied that Rees has been brought to justice. He clearly posed a substantial risk to children.
"I hope the sentence imposed demonstrates the determination of all those involved in protecting children, that these matters are taken seriously, and that offenders must understand that they will be brought to justice."
An NSPCC spokesman added: “Rees is a sexual predator who used the cover of the internet to feed his unhealthy interest in children.
“It is important that treatment forms a part of his jail sentence to help reduce any risk he may pose upon release.
“This case highlights the very real dangers young people face when using social media. However, social media platforms can do more to protect children online by making sure they provide safer accounts which offer default privacy settings and mechanisms to guard against grooming.”
Parents seeking advice on how to keep children safe online can visit NSPCC website or call the NSPCC O2 helpline on 0808 8005002.
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