Saturday 24 February 2018

Seven time zones, twisted fantasies and bad luck - how Canadian paedophile was caught

Jashua Tremblay, who was convicted in Canada for having an illegal sexual relationship with a teenage girl
Jashua Tremblay, who was convicted in Canada for having an illegal sexual relationship with a teenage girl
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

In 2013, a 30-year-old Canadian dad made contact with a 13-year-old Irish girl on a website that allows people to connect randomly with other users.

Just 14 months later he crossed seven time zones to spend a week with his victim, raping her after bringing her to a hotel.

In that time, Jashua Tremblay had convinced the teenager, who had recently lost her mother, that they were in a legitimate relationship and would go on to marry.

This week Tremblay, from Alberta, was jailed for four-and-a-half years and the case has been held up as an example of effective co-operation between law enforcement across international borders.

Tremblay was convicted as a result of 'good old-fashioned detective work' by gardaí and expert knowledge in a Canadian prosecutor's office with a well-resourced cyber-crimes unit, prosecutor Craig Krieger said.

Speaking about the case for the first time since Tremblay's sentencing, Crown Prosecutor Mr Krieger outlined the investigation which left Tremblay with little option but to plead guilty.

Mr Krieger became involved in the investigation in March 2015, five months after locals in an Irish seaside town alerted gardaí to inappropriate behaviour between Tremblay and his young victim during a 10-day stay at a holiday home.

"At that stage the gardaí had gotten quite far, I want to give them credit because, even though they probably figured out early on that they would never see the offender again in Ireland, they nevertheless did quite a bit of old-fashioned legwork to gather evidence," he said.

This evidence included a substantial paper trail of accommodation records and car rental details for Tremblay's visits to Ireland. CCTV was also collected which showed Tremblay with his victim as they shopped.

According to an "agreed statement of facts" presented to the court last week, Tremblay had convinced her they were in a legitimate relationship. She came to believe she was in love with him. In a victim impact statement the girl's devastated father said she had been "brainwashed" by the predator. She believed she would move to Canada and marry him when she turned 18. He also told her he wanted "100 kids".

Canada's criminal code allows the authorities there to prosecute offenders who commit sexual crimes against children in other jurisdictions. The investigation painted an upsetting portrait of how Tremblay preyed on the young girl.

"They met on a chat service, similar to Chat Roulette, but moved very quickly to other apps including WhatsApp," Mr Krieger said. "He was upfront about his age, and the conversation started off very friendly, then it escalated quiet quickly."

The random nature of the meeting was "not unusual" Mr Krieger added, but was keen to stress that the case itself and its transatlantic nature is not typical.

There is no reason to suspect Tremblay deliberately sought an Irish victim.

"It was just from the spinning of the wheel, bad luck," Mr Krieger said.

The communication recovered by authorities showed that Tremblay had used flattery to convince his victim of the normality of their relationship.

"We were able to show the judge the detail of the kinds of things he was saying to her. It was quite explicit eventually," Mr Krieger said.

Tremblay sent naked pictures of himself, along with explicit audio messages.

So-called 'sex tourism' is not unusual and paedophiles will often show disregard to barriers such as distance.

"Many of these predators are so committed to fulfilling their twisted fantasies they will go to extraordinary efforts," Mr Krieger said.

"It doesn't matter what kind of quiet, peaceful, rural areas one is in as long as one has access to electricity and an internet signal, these predators are committed.

"One of the things that I emphasised to the sentencing judge was that he was willing to cross seven times zones and deal with jetlag for only a seven-night visit and a 10-night visit… most people would be reluctant to go on that trip for only seven nights. That's another reflection of how fixated this guy was on satisfying his own pleasures and disregarding the effect on the victim."

This was Tremblay's first conviction for crimes against children. In 2013, he was convicted of assaulting his now ex-wife but was given a "conditional discharge" and probation. His initial visit to Ireland came in his first week of probation.

"His first flight to Ireland was less than a week after he was in court for that assault," Mr Krieger he said.

A psychologist's report found that Tremblay does not display a preference for teens or pre-teens but would he have continued to offend or preyed on another victim?

"I'm reluctant to make that kind of prediction but… the only reason this 'relationship' ended was because he was caught. He was still fully engaged in this 'relationship' at that time," Mr Krieger said.

Irish Independent

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