Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Man guilty of grooming girl, 14

Sean Clode, 21, was convicted of grooming a 14-year-old schoolgirl, abducting her and having sex with her in a tent on a beach

A man was told he will be jailed after he was convicted of grooming a 14-year-old schoolgirl, abducting her and having sex with her in a tent on a beach.

Sean Clode, 21, camped overnight in a tent with the girl, who disappeared from her home in Northern Scotland, and had taken a train hundreds of miles to his home town of Hartlepool to be with the man who had befriended her while playing Xbox games online.

She pretended to her parents she was going to school but instead met up with Clode and spent 20 hours in a tent she had bought, on dunes at Crimdon Dene.

Teesside Crown Court heard how her frantic father drove through the night, first to Edinburgh, then on to the North East desperately searching for the teenager.

In his statement read to the jury, he said: "As I got to Hartlepool it was first light and I spent an hour walking around the docks and a picnic area.

"After not much luck and beside myself with worry I attended Hartlepool police station."

He charged his phone at the station and continued his search.

"During my frantic attempts to locate my daughter, I leafed through the local phone book, walked along sections of the coastline, knocked on doors and spoke to postmen."

Finally, he got word the police helicopter had found her at about 2pm.

"I cannot express how much of a relief it was," he said. "I was becoming increasingly concerned I wouldn't see (her) alive again.

"No words can explain how traumatic and upsetting this whole experience has been for me and my family."

Footage from the police helicopter showed Clode getting out of the tent and putting his trainers on, while the girl, who cannot be named, pulled her dress down.

The next day the girl told police in a recorded interview that she had sex several times that night with Clode in the tent.

But the following month she changed her story and said no sex had taken place.

The prosecution claimed she altered her account out of "misplaced loyalty" or embarrassment.

The jury deliberated for just over an hour before convicting him of sexual grooming, child abduction and two counts of sexual activity with a child.

The abduction charge related to Clode removing the girl from the lawful authority of her parents.

He denied all offences, denying sex had taken place, and claiming the girl arrived in Hartlepool without his knowledge and that he was merely trying to keep her safe.

Judge Howard Crownson told Clode, of Glamis Walk, Hartlepool, jail was inevitable when he is sentenced in a fortnight.

Pre-sentence reports will be prepared to determine the length of the sentence.

Clode was remanded in custody.

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