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Gardai open 'grooming probe' into Wexford man after 'sting' by 'paedo hunter' group

The group live-streamed the confrontation with the man, a former club hurling star in Co. Wexford, in a video which has now been watched thousands of times in both Ireland and the UK.
The Wexford man

The Wexford man

Patrick O'Connell

A well-known hurler arrested in the UK for child-grooming offences following a sting by 'paedo hunter' vigilante group is being investigated by Gardaí.

The 40-year-old Wexford man was arrested in Liverpool on November 29 after he was tracked down by a so-called 'paedo-hunter' group.

The man was present in the city to attend a Liverpool match when he was confronted by the group outside a bar on the city's Ranelagh Street.

Similar to the manner in which disgraced RTÉ producer Kieran Creaven was first caught, the man had been lured out by the group who used an online decoy of a 12-year-old girl to engage him in conversation.

A still image from the video posted online in which Kieran Creaven was confronted by the group Predator Exposure in Leeds four years ago.

A still image from the video posted online in which Kieran Creaven was confronted by the group Predator Exposure in Leeds four years ago.

The group live-streamed the confrontation with the man, a former club hurling star in Co. Wexford, in a video which has now been watched thousands of times in both Ireland and the UK.

In the Facebook Live video, representatives from the group read extracts from the online chat to the man, alleging that he had sent explicit photos from his account to the 'child's' account, had talked to her about getting her period and had told the girl that he was her "boyfriend" while requesting explicit pictures in return.

The chat between the two accounts is understood to have gone on for "quite some time" with the group describing some of the messages and indecent images sent from the Wexford man's account as "stomach churning."

The group had supposedly been tracking the man's activities online for some time and when they found out he was in Liverpool, several members of their team from across the North of England swooped on his city centre location.

"It's ridiculous, it was stupid and there's no excuse," the man said when confronted. "I've no excuse. It shouldn't have happened."

As the video continues, the man's friends, who had travelled over to Liverpool with him, emerge from the pub.

One asks what right the group had to detain the accused, someone he says he's known "all his life."

Despite the insistence of those who had tracked him down, the man declined to explain to his friends what he was accused of on camera.

Noting the man is a Liverpool fan, one of the local members of the group was determined that the Wexford man wouldn't return to a match again.

"I'm going to share this with all my Kopite mates and to all the pages, so if your face ever gets seen around Anfield again, or around Liverpool again..."

The Facebook video concludes with the arrival of Merseyside Police.

In a statement to the Sunday World, Merseyside Police confirmed: "We can confirm that officers have arrested a man on suspicion of grooming following a report in Liverpool city centre.

"Officers attended an incident on Ranelagh Street and arrested a 40-year-old man from Co. Wexford in Ireland on suspicion of grooming a girl under 13.

"He has been released pending further enquiries."

Merseyside Police further confirmed to the Sunday World on Friday that the matter "has been transferred to South Ireland Police (An Garda Siochana) for their investigation."

A senior source this week confirmed to that Gardaí in Wexford are now investigating the matter.

But he declined to say whether the man had been questioned on his return home to the county or whether any electronic equipment had been seized as part of the Irish probe.

"The matter has been referred to Gardaí and there is an investigation ongoing," the source said.

"As such, it would not be appropriate to speak about arrests or seizures."

The so called 'paedo-hunter' group that carried out the sting on the man is not the same group that carried out the sting that led to the exposure and subsequent conviction of former RTÉ producer Kieran Creaven for child abuse offences.

Former sports producer Kieran Creaven. Photo: Mark Condren

Former sports producer Kieran Creaven. Photo: Mark Condren

The 59-year-old then sports producer was arrested in Leeds in 2017 as a result of a sting operation by a vigilante group when he tried to meet a child for sexual activity.

He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment in the United Kingdom.

Gardaí charged him last year with a number of offences relating to child exploitation, sexual assault, and possession of child abuse material.

Creaven, of Adelaide Street, Dún Laoghaire, Dublin, pleaded guilty to 10 counts, including four of child exploitation, two of sexually assaulting a child and four of child pornography.

The offences took place in Ireland, the UK and the Philippines in 2014 and 2017.

He has been in custody since October last year.

Creaven, who sexually abused and exploited young children, including flying to the Philippines for the purpose of child sexual abuse, was jailed for 10 years for his crimes last week.


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