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Accused ‘filmed sex with girl (13) in Belfast hotel’

An Englishman who flew to Belfast to meet a girl of 13 for sex filmed their hotel room encounter, the High Court heard yesterday.

Prosecutors said Gareth Freeman also persuaded the vulnerable girl to take explicit video clips of herself and send them to him after they met through a social networking site.

Freeman (31) was said to have warned her that he would kill himself if the relationship was discovered, and later attempted suicide as police investigated.

He admitted viewing footage of the pair every day until his arrest, and made no attempt to destroy the images on his mobile phone despite being warned a probe had begun, it was claimed.

Conor Maguire, prosecuting, said: “Police would say the images were more compelling to this applicant than the likelihood of his apprehension.”

Freeman, of Mirfield, West Yorkshire, faces charges of inciting a child to engage in and watch sexual activity, and two counts of possessing child porn. He is also accused of meeting a child following sexual grooming. Bail was refused due to the risk of further offences being committed.

Freeman was first arrested and brought to Northern Ireland in December when police became aware of his sexual relationship with the girl, the court heard.

While subsequently released, in January the girl made a formal complaint in which she said they met last September through mobile phone network site Qeep.

It was claimed their conversations turned sexual within days, with the girl sending video clips and stills of her performing sex acts at his request. He allegedly also sent her images.

Mr Maguire said: “In October 2009 alone, phone records show that the applicant sent the injured party 3,793 text messages and 76 media messages.”

A meeting was arranged between the pair at the end of the month when Freeman booked into the Park Avenue Hotel in east Belfast, said the prosecution.

It was alleged the girl joined him in his room for sex after telling her mother she was going to the cinema.

Mr Maguire claimed Freeman filmed their encounter, and that further acts then occurred in nearby Orangefield Park. He said the girl stayed overnight before the accused returned to England.

Explicit video clips and photos were allegedly discovered on Freeman's phone, along with further indecent images of other children.

The accused's scheduled return for questioning was delayed when he was hospitalised after a suicide bid, it was disclosed.

Mr Maguire said Freeman admitted knowing the girl was 13, sending and receiving images, and asking her if he could record their encounter. Freeman was said to have told detectives that he reactivated his frozen profile on Qeep after being originally released from custody.

Opposing bail, Mr Maguire said: “This is very much a predatory male offender, this is not an opportunist.”

He added: “Despite knowing that police were investigating these allegations, and having been effectively tipped off by the young girl, he retained these images on his mobile phone. Police would say that demonstrates that this man has a compelling need to engage in such activity.”

Richard McConkey, defending, argued that Freeman had returned to face questioning voluntarily and made frank admissions during interviews.

Mr McConkey claimed there was no reason for his client to attempt to interfere with the young girl, who he said was unlikely to be called to give evidence in the case.

Refusing bail, Lord Justice Higgins ruled: “The catalogue of incidents, some admitted, some as yet allegations, clearly indicate a real risk of further offences.”

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