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Belfast man accused of raping schoolgirl and blackmailing another in 'catfish' scam in court


Bail was refused.

Bail was refused.

Bail was refused.

A 51-year-old Belfast man allegedly raped a schoolgirl and blackmailed another into sending him naked images after posing online as a teenage boy, a court has been told.

He is also accused of making threats to kill and forwarding the photos to friends of one victim he contacted through social media.

The defendant, who is not being named for legal reasons, used a fake profile to "catfish" young girls and achieve sexual excitement, it was claimed.

He appeared at Belfast Magistrates' Court on Monday on a total of 13 charges linked to a suspected campaign on dates between July 1, 2019 and March 28, 2020.

The alleged offences include two counts of rape, threats to kill, attempting to meet a child following sexual grooming, causing a child to watch sexual activity and sexual communication with a child.

He is further accused of sexually touching a girl unable to refuse due to a mental disorder, harassment, blackmail, possessing and distributing indecent images of a child.

The defendant was arrested after Derbyshire Police raised concerns about the potential grooming of a number of girls aged between 13 and 14, the court was told.

A detective claimed he had disguised himself as a 13-year-old boy on Instagram and Snapchat to obtain indecent images.

One alleged victim believed she was in a relationship with him and planned a meeting in England, according to police.

District Judge George Conner was told the man sent videos from porn sites in return, pretending it was him featured in the clips.

Threats were allegedly issued to one girl if she didn't continue providing him with images.

Police claimed he warned: "I'm going to come to your school, **** you in your school skirt and kill you."

The court heard some images received from one girl were then sent on to as many as seven other girls.

Referring to interviews with the accused, the detective submitted: "He said he would catfish young girls to obtain sexual gratification."

It was claimed that he poses a significant risk to children.

A defence solicitor described her client as vulnerable, suggesting that he may not have understood what he said during police interviews.

However, Judge Conner ruled that the defendant must be remanded in custody due to concerns about any further offences.

Refusing bail, he said: "These are very serious charges, dealing with some of the mist vulnerable people we have in our community."

Belfast Telegraph