Wednesday 21 February 2018

Man accused of climbing in through window of care home to have sex with girl (13)

Bernard Cooke pictured outside court
Bernard Cooke pictured outside court

Alan Erwin

A man accused of climbing into a care home to have sex with a 13-year-old girl must remain in custody, a Belfast High Court judge ruled today.

Bernard Cooke was refused bail after prosecutors claimed he was involved with two vulnerable teenagers at separate homes in the north west of Northern Ireland.

The 23-year-old faces charges of sexual activity with a child, trespassing with intent to commit a sexual offence, and meeting a child following sexual grooming.

The alleged offences were committed in October last year.

Cooke, of Cornshell Fields in Derry, was located and arrested in the 13-year-old girl's bedroom at a home, the court heard.

Prosecution counsel Kate McKay said police were told the defendant had entered the room through a window.

Forensic evidence backs the case that the pair had sexual intercourse, according to the barrister.

Mrs McKay said the girl told a friend at the time that she believed she may be pregnant.

"She believed she was in a relationship with this older man, who was 22 at the time of the offence," she added.

Phones seized from Cooke and the girl allegedly show contact between the pair.

The court also heard claims that a girl then aged 15 who went missing from a children's home was found in a caravan beside the accused's home.

Although she said they were in a relationship both her and Cooke denied any sexual activity between them, Mrs McKay set out.

Opposing bail, she argued: "There were two girls involved, both vulnerable females in terms of their residence at children's homes.

"There are concerns he would potentially re-offend again with other females or these same females."

Sean Doherty, defending, insisted there was no evidence of any sexual contact with the older girl.

He argued that Cooke could be released to live at his parents' address, at least two miles from either children's home.

But denying bail, Mr Justice Burgess cited the risk of re-offending.

Belfast Telegraph

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