Carpenter groomed girls over internet

A SUFFOLK man is awaiting sentence after pleading guilty to a series of offences relating to the grooming on the internet of young girls across the UK.

A SUFFOLK man is awaiting sentence after pleading guilty to a series of offences relating to the grooming on the internet of young girls across the UK.

Paul Etheridge, a 24-year-old carpenter, was caught with more than 200 hundred pictures of girls aged 13 to 15 on his mobile phone.

Detectives said he had enticed the youngsters to send indecent images of themselves, often in exchange for mobile top-up vouchers.

Etheridge was caught after a 13-year-old girl from Reigate, Surrey, alerted police that she had been propositioned online by a man who wanted her to make and send indecent photographs using her mobile phone camera in July last year.

Surrey Police's Paedophile On-Line Investigation Team was quickly able to trace Etheridge and he was arrested at his home on August 9.

Analysis of his computers and mobile phone revealed he had been in contact with hundreds of girls under 16 in areas across the country including Belfast, Lancashire, Norwich, London and Surrey.

Most Read

Thousands of indecent images, many from web cameras, were also found on his computer.

Etheridge pleaded guilty to 26 offences when he appeared at Guildford Crown Court yesterday and a further seven remain on file.

They include possession of indecent images and inciting the production of indecent images, inciting a child to engage in sexual activity and, in the most serious case, engaging in penetrative sexual activity with a 15-year-old girl from London.

Detectives had managed to track down many of his victims through Etheridge's computer and phone records.

Det Insp Theresa Breen said: "Our specialist team unravelled a web of offending stretching right across the country.

"This case was very serious because the offender had escalated from obtaining images from the internet, to grooming girls to make their own photos and, in one case, actually meeting a girl and engaging in sexual activity.

"Modern technology provides a wealth of educational and entertainment benefits for children. But with many now owning their own mobile phone or having a computer in their bedroom, parents must also be aware of the potential dangers.

"Young people who are approached inappropriately on the internet or by mobile phone should not be afraid to tell their parents, another adult they trust or even the police directly if they are embarrassed.

"We will treat your information very seriously and, as shown thanks to the 13-year-old Reigate girl in this case, you may help to stop someone else becoming a victim."

Etheridge will be sentenced at a later date.