Friday 22 November 2019

Lottery-winning millionaire had sexual relationship with schoolgirl (15) and bought her €2,500 engagement ring, court hears

Andrew Phelan

Andrew Phelan

A UK lottery-winning millionaire carried on a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old Irish schoolgirl he met online, eventually buying her a €2,500 designer engagement ring, it has been alleged.

A court has been told the now 27-year-old businessman travelled to and from Ireland by ferry, having sex with the teenager in hotels and taking her to Dublin Zoo.

According to gardai, he was fully aware of the age of the girl, who was 15 when they first made contact on social media and is now 16.

Their alleged relationship began before the accused’s lottery “windfall” and he was arrested when he arrived in Dublin at the weekend to confront the girl’s mother about “his feelings for her daughter.”

Despite garda objections, Judge Fiona Lydon granted the wealthy British man bail under strict conditions, and with cash lodgments totalling €150,000.

The man is charged with four sample counts of defilement of a child under the age of 17 on dates in 2016 and 2017.

Garda Stephen Faulkner of the Bridewell Station told Dublin District Court the alleged victim’s mother made a complaint in January this year that her daughter was in a sexual relationship with a man who had travelled from the UK to procure sex.

The girl told officers she met the accused in a named online chat forum, where she was subscribed to an under 17s category.

After a number of months they exchanged phone details and continued to have contact through apps such as Snapchat and Whatsapp, Garda Faulkner continued.

The pair first met last year, stayed in a Dublin city hotel and “engaged in sexual intercourse.”

The girl was 15 years old and in “the aftermath,” she informed the accused of her age and that it was “her first time.”

This “did not discourage” the accused, the garda alleged. It was the prosecution’s case that he returned to this jurisdiction a number of times, the meetings continuing every four to six weeks, with “the same modus operandi.”

Their last meeting was in January this year, when the girl’s parents “unearthed” the alleged relationship, the court heard.

Garda Faulkner objected to bail due to the nature and seriousness of the allegations and his belief that the accused was a flight risk.

He said there was a CCTV footage of the pair coming and going from a Dublin city hotel, as well as the zoo.

Analysis of the girl’s phone and Whatsapp, which was their main point of contact, revealed 2,970 screenshots of conversations .

“It is clear that sexual activity did take place on various occasions, some of which are actual recordings during the course of sexual activity,” the garda said of the data retrieved.

Gardai also confirmed details of the accused’s journeys to Ireland on Stena Line and information was obtained on stays in various hotels.

The accused purchased two rings for the girl, the garda alleged, one of which was bought in a Dublin shopping centre for €2,550. The man explained to the shop assistant that this was purchased as an engagement ring and he later gave it to the girl, Garda Faulkner said.

Detectives obtained the accused’s financial details and established he was a man “of considerable wealth.”

The alleged victim said the man had told her he won the UK lottery and gardai established a large sum of money had been transferred into the accused’s bank account from Camelot.

When he was arrested on July 15, the accused was removed from his Audi S5 Quattro, which was searched. His silver iPhone had 69 images of an incriminating nature on it, including five videos featuring his and the alleged victim nude, Garda Faulkner said.

There was also an image of the girl’s scout troop identity card, including her date of birth. In the image, the girl was in her secondary school uniform.

Garda Faulkner had “no doubt whatsoever” the accused was aware of the girl’s age. He believed that the man, who has “no ties to this jurisdiction” would return to the UK if granted bail.

On July 15, he sailed on the ferry from Holyhead having made the booking the same day. Garda Faulkner believed he purposely made the late booking to avoid being detected.

The accused had a “considerable amount of resources” due to his windfall, the garda said, adding that he believed the defendant would interfere with witnesses if granted bail.

The garda said he expected to have the DPP’s directions by the end of the month.

Cross-examining Garda Faulkner, Seamus Clarke BL, for the accused, said any trial date would be at least 18 months from now. The garda agreed there was no evidence the accused tried to disguise his real age.

The accused’s business partner was supportive in relation to the man staying in this jurisdiction. The garda accepted the defendant had the wealth to do this.

The man would also stay far away from the alleged victim. When he arrived here at the weekend having contacted the girl’s mother through Facebook, he had been aware a complaint had been made and that he could be arrested, Mr Clarke said.

“It looks like both parties believed they were in a relationship,” Mr Clarke said. “There seems to have been a consensual relationship between two people where the age gap seems to be 10 to 11 years.”

Garda Faulkner said the accused had a six-figure sum in a bank account.

“There are not really any terms and conditions that would satisfy me, Judge,” he added.

Judge Lydon set bail in the accused’s cash bond of €100,000, with two independent sureties of €50,000 each, half of which is to be lodged in cash.

He must surrender his passport, reside at an agreed address, sign on twice daily at a garda station, observe an 11pm to 8am curfew and be contactable by mobile phone at all times.

The accused is to have no contact direct or indirect with the alleged victim or her family.

He was remanded in custody with consent to bail, to appear in court again on July 21.

He has not yet indicated a plea to the charges.

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