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Child snatcher tried to groom 13-year-old girl on Facebook

NewsBy Shuki Byrne
Jailed: Michael Martin
Jailed: Michael Martin

Child snatcher Michael Martin tried to groom a 13-year-old girl online, the girl's horrified mother has said.

The recently- jailed criminal, who has almost 100 previous convictions, targeted the young girl on Facebook around two years before he attempted to abduct a young girl playing in Laois earlier this year. 

Speaking yesterday, the judge who presided over his case said he wished he could give the 36-year-old a life sentence for the crime - if he had the option. 

Following his conviction the mother of a young girl who was in contact with Martin spoke to the Irish Mirror, revealing how the predator attempted to chat her up on social media. 

The mum, who cannot be named to protect her daughter, said: “He contacted her in April 2013. I went straight to the guards and reported it.

“In his messages he said he was 24 but he was 34 and was using three separate Facebook accounts.

“It turned out he had lots of that age group added to his Facebook and that’s why my daughter accepted him thinking it was the girl in his picture. She mistook Michael as Michelle. It’s scary how easy it happened.

“The guards were very sympathetic but there was nothing they could do apparently because he did not ask her to meet up directly, after which I told them maybe because I intervened.

Screengrabs from the conversation show Martin telling the girl she looked "sexy", and also asking her if she was with anyone, "a lad like?". 

The girl had at this stage informed him she was just 13 to which he replied he was 24. He said he wanted to get to know her but the girl replied that she was 13 and to "go away."

The young girl's mother replied to him through mail and asked him why he was talking to a 13-year-old girl online while trying to befriend her. He told her it was his younger brother who was sending the messages, not him. 

She warned other parents to be vigilant when it comes to their young children and social media. 

“I’d urge parents to do the same or God knows what could have happened.

“I was physically sick that this happened to us. It’s something you read about but never imagine will ever happen to you or your family.

“What if I didn’t have her password? Would she have let slip what school she was in? Would he have abducted her?"

Martin was yesterday given a 17-year sentence with four suspended. 

Judge Keenan Johnson said "the detection and apprehension of the accused was a great piece of detective work" which was aided by the keen observations of three children.

Twin boys aged 10 and their 11-year-old sister had been playing at Cullohill in Co Laois when the accused approached in an SUV on March 4.

He grabbed the girl and pushed her into the passenger seat of the SUV. As he did so, the girl's brother attacked Martin.

He then clung onto the side of the SUV as Martin attempted to drive away. During the boy's attack on Martin, the young girl was able to escape.

"They were able to describe the accused, the vehicle he was driving, and also to give details of part of the registration plate. I also note with satisfaction that the Garda investigation into this matter was considerably helped by the co-operation and assistance offered to them by the local community," Judge Johnson said.

He described the incident as "extremely frightening" for the children and said the girl was fortunate that her brother was present.