A married Co Down couple who photographed themselves naked abusing a toddler were warned that they faced “significant sentences”.
Gary and Heather Talbot, were told by Judge Peirs Grant that their case involved very serious offences in which they had betrayed the trust of a very young child and that it was only realistic for them to expect to be given significant jail terms when sentenced next month.
In May last year, the paedophiles from Kinghill Avenue, in Newcastle, pleaded guilty to a series of sex offences, committed between 2001 and 2003 against the child then aged, 18 months to when she was three years and three months old.
Gary Talbot, a 60-year-old postman and bus driver, admitted 16 charges including two rapes, gross indecency, indecent assault, and taking and distributing indecent images of the child. He also admitted a separate charge of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old teen sometime between July 2012 and July 2014.
His 59-year-old wife Heather admitted 10 charges, including aiding and abetting her husband to rape the little girl, indecently assaulting her, committing acts of gross indecency, in addition to three charges of taking indecent images of the youngster.
Both sat in the dock just yards from their now grown-up victim, sitting in the public gallery supported by family and friends.
At one stage Gary Talbot, who listened to the details of his crimes with eyes closed shut, appeared to shake his head from side to side, while his wife kept looking to the side, her eyes cast down.
Lawyers for the depraved pair told Downpatrick Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, that little could be said in their mitigation, save their guilty pleas, demonstrative of their remorse and shame, and for which they were entitled to credit in determining their ultimate sentence.
Lawyers also revealed that while Gary Talbot had an enhanced status in prison where he was leading a model existence as a prisoner, his wife in contrast was finding custody hard, self-isolating and living under threat and constant fear.
Earlier, prosecution QC David McDowell outlined in detail, too graphic to report, the couple's perverted abuse of the youngster and of internet chats and boasts to other paedophiles, recovered on a variety of computer equipment seized from their home in October 2017.
He also revealed an external hard-drive was recovered from a locked bedroom cupboard, the key of which was secreted within the pages of the novel Lolita, on a bedside table.
Counsel explained a total of 47 indecent images, apparently recording three separate occasions of abuse, including rape, were taken of the toddler, which also showed the couple naked on some.
Mr McDowell said while initially making a "no comment" police interviews, Gary Talbot, also denied any sexual interest in children, before admitting by his third interview: "It is just the wrong road I have taken".
And while he initially disputed claims of raping the child, until shown "a clear photograph", and denied knowingly sharing the pictures, he did finally admit to being "totally ashamed", although he claimed he only "looked at the image twice in 15 years, but not for sexual gratification".
However, Mr McDowell said Talbot later accepted "going through a phrase where he was sexually attracted to children "and it was "around this time when he abused" the toddler, and "it was he who had introduced children to his and Heather's sexual relationship".
He also accepted it was his idea to buy clothes from Dunnes, to dress-up the child especially for "posing", pictured in bed surrounded by pornographic magazines. However, he claimed the youngster had posed with the magazines, "of her own accord".
Mr McDowell said quizzed about their online chatroom activities, using the names "Mike and Fiona", he "struggled to explain", and while claiming "he was embellishing for the sake of the chats", later "confirmed" he'd been talking about the toddler "and that he shared the indecent images" of her.
When questioned, his wife Heather she said she was "60 - 70% confident" the images were of the toddler, but denied being "aware of the photograph" of her husband raping the toddler.
Mr McDowell said Heather "commented that it was, 'just a fantasy that we carried too far', before correcting herself, saying, 'it was his fantasy, not mine really'," before adding it was "not really" her fantasy, and that "she played along".
Mr McDowell said by her last interview Heather Talbot "repeated her denials" of taking the photographs, claiming the rape pictures were "taken using a tripod and when she dressed the toddler up, she did not think it would go as far as it did".
However, when asked what she would say to the now grown-up toddler, she said she would apologise, "for what he's done to her", whilst still maintaining, "she hadn't done anything".