NewsCrime Desk

We catch Irish men arranging to meet underage girls online

Our reporter (left)  meets online stranger who sent a naked picture of 'teen boy'
Our reporter (left) meets online stranger who sent a naked picture of 'teen boy'

MEET the sleazy IT professional and the care worker who arranged to meet an underage teenager to perform illegal sex acts.

Last month, Frances Fitzgerald unveiled the new Sexual Offences Bill which would close a number of loopholes exposing children to online predators.

The new laws will target sex offenders who, Gardaí believe, are increasingly using the internet to ‘groom’ vulnerable young teens.

As part of an undercover investigation, the Sunday World met three of these men over the space of a two-week period earlier this year.

Our team posted an advert on a popular classified ad website, posing as a 15-year-old who was looking to meet new friends.

An IT worker responded to one of our ads and arranged a meeting with a ‘15-year-old girl’ within hours.

The man, who said he was from Switzerland, had no problem sending pictures of himself and talking about his “high sex drive”. 

Despite being told repeatedly that he was speaking to a 15-year-old, he went ahead with the meeting and agreed to pick up the fictional girl in a busy city centre location in the early evening. He also offered to drive to her home to pick her up and bring her back to his own house.

This man grabbed our phone when he was confronted 

When confronted by our undercover reporters, the pervert insisted he “was not a bad person” and “didn’t do anything wrong”. 

“Sorry for that – I mean, I’m not a bad person,” he told our team.

“I know that you’re not supposed to do it, but at the end of the day I didn’t do anything wrong.

“If the person is wanting to meet up.. you know what I mean. I don’t mean no harm, I’m sorry if I did it… I’m really sorry.

The man, who has been living in Ireland for seven years, said he had never arranged to meet a minor online before and that he had no record as a sex offender.

In a bizarre conversation, he went on to say he has “met good people” on online dating sites and defended his actions by saying it was “normal” to meet people online.

“In no way would I put someone’s life in danger,” he said.

“Thanks a lot for letting me know. I won’t do it [again].”

He said our meeting was a “lesson learned” even though he knew the law when he agreed to the meeting.

Having a child exposed to an online predator is every parent’s biggest fear, but our investigation shows that the perverts looking to groom youngsters have absolutely no fear.

Men who believed they were speaking to teens were quick to send snaps of themselves that would make them easily identifiable. Their pictures were usually accompanied by explicit images, including naked snaps taken in the shower.

Repeated warnings that the person they were talking to was under the age of consent didn’t put many off. Some did cut off conversation – but only after asking for a picture of the underage girl. 

One 24-year-old man responded to two separate ads for different girls.

“If you’re not comfortable meeting with a stranger, we can go to McDonald’s for a meal so that you can get to know me,” he wrote, before quickly pointing out the conversation could be stopped by the site.

“Sorry babe just because you have highlighted your age, site administration can ban you anytime, so keep in mind that if it happens you have my number anyway.”

Another pervert, aged 38, responded to our ad and told our reporter that she was “a bit young” for him, but sent pictures of himself, clearly not worried that he was identifying himself as a predator.

The man, from Cork, offered to send pictures of his penis after just minutes of messaging and offered to get a hotel room for sex when he visited Dublin.

“I’m not a little boy, I’m quite big below,” he said in a message, before asking if the young girl would travel from Dublin to Cork.

Another man, aged 29, claimed to be a fireman “with a big hose” when he contacted our fake girl online.

None of these men were fazed when reminded that our ‘girl’ was well below the legal age of consent.

We also placed an ad posing as a gay teenage boy. Within minutes, our team received dozens of messages from men who all wanted to meet.

Despite being repeatedly told that the boy was 16 years old, these men continued to send sexualised messages and explicit pictures.

Among the dozen men who sought to meet the teenager was a 40-year-old named Paul who claimed he was a care worker.

He requested the teen send him a picture, which he described as “cute”, and went on to say he liked a range of sex acts, which are too explicit to print.

‘Paul’ was so caught up in the grotesque conversation that he sent the ‘teenage boy’ a naked picture showing his topless body and penis.

He arranged to meet the boy at a location near Connolly Station – surrounded by workers who were oblivious to the meeting. 

When confronted by the Sunday World, ‘Paul’ attempted to defend his sinister actions by claiming that he got confused by the legal age.

“I genuinely thought the legal age was 16,” he told our reporters.

“I wasn’t sure if it was 16 or 17, but I presumed it was 16. This is the first time I’ve ever done this. It’s my fault, I should have double checked. I know I made a mistake.”

When our team said that this was no excuse for meeting the 16-year-old, in a weird outburst he defended himself, saying: “I’m not making excuses. I put my hands up, anybody who knows me knows I put my hands up. It’s not an excuse to me.

“I’ve never done anything like this, you can check the system. I have a clean slate. I have no criminal record. I work in the care system, I look after elderly people, disabled people.

 “If I had a criminal past I wouldn’t be involved in working with these people. My record is clean.”

He also claimed that he was “robbed and beaten” by people he had met through online websites.

When asked if he would ever meet somebody below the legal age of consent again, he replied: “No, believe me I won’t, because the next time I will know the legal age is 17.”

This was just one of the predatory men looking to meet our teen.

Another, who described himself as a businessman, even offered to “transport, accommodate and compensate” the teenager for having sex with him.

However, the sicko was more up front than most men in describing what he wanted to engage in.

“Not going to lead you on, so my only three options for you to consider is...” he told our undercover reporter before describing three sexual situations.

He agreed to meet our teen near a Dublin train station, but when confronted by the Sunday World he grabbed our reporter and attempted to steal his mobile phone.

We snapped him running away after the attempted theft, presumably fearing the phone contained a trace of his sexual emails.

Martin Grant & Laura Larkin