Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Accused groomed 14-year-old girl online, court told

A 30-year-old Londonderry man has appeared at the city’s magistrates court charged with grooming a child for sex.

Jonathan Dowds, unemployed, with an address in Abercorn Road, was also charged with abduction and arranging a meeting for facilitating or commission of a sexual offence on a child on January 7.

A detective constable told the court she could connect him to the charges.

The detective said a 14-year-old girl left her home on the north coast and got the train to Derry on Friday, January 7.

She was met there by Dowds.

He then took her to his home, although he knew she had been reported missing.

The detective said the defendant first contacted the girl six weeks ago through Facebook and chat rooms and that he knew from the onset that she was only 14.

Mobile phone numbers were exchanged and in those six weeks Dowds was in daily contact with the girl by text, sending her approximately 100 messages, many of which were of a sexual nature, the detective said.

Dowds told the girl she was his girlfriend and that he wanted to marry her and have a baby with her, but warned her to keep it a secret from her parents until she was 16, he added.

The detective said that the girl's family knew she was in contact with someone through Facebook but they thought the man was 19.

They contacted the police when they found a letter from their daughter detailing her intentions to be with Dowds.

The girl told police she received texts from the police and her parents while she was in Dowd's home and that the defendant advised her what to text back.

While he was being questioned by the police the defendant admitted he knew that the girl was 14, admitted sending texts of a sexual nature, admitted getting into bed with the girl while she was at his home, but denied any sexual contact and stated they were both fully dressed in bed.

Under questioning from defence solicitor Paddy MacDermott, the detective constable agreed that Dowds had said it was the girl's idea that she travel to Derry to be with him and that when he met her at the train station he tried to get her to go back home, but she insisted on staying.

The detective told the court that police were objecting to the defendant being released on bail on the grounds that they felt there was a real danger of him committing other offences.

District Judge Jim McFarland remanded Dowds in custody to appear back in court on February 3 via video-link.

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