Crown says man used Snapchat to groom teenage girl

| 19/04/2024
Courthouse in George Town

(CNS): A 24-year-old man used the social media platform Snapchat, which deletes messages, pictures and videos within 24 hrs of them being viewed, to groom a 13-year-old girl whom he later raped in a hotel bathroom, according to the crown. As prosecutor Sarah Lewis opened the case against the man on Thursday, she told the jury that he had chatted with the teenager on Snapchat for several weeks before he began asking her to send him nude pictures and the sexual content of the messages escalated.

The girl had told the defendant that she was in Year 9 at school, and in the messages he sent to her, he had implied that he was also a teenager, which the prosecutor said was all part of the grooming that eventually led to the sexual assault on the young girl. She said he had “posed as a child”, making the girl think he was far younger than 23, as he was at the time, so he could befriend her and then abuse her.

The prosecutor said the assault happened in March 2023. Her school was closed for the day, so the girl had to go with her mother to a hotel where she worked. She told the defendant this, and they discussed the idea of him meeting her there, as the pair had not met before. Still thinking he was a teenage boy who was interested in her, the girl messaged that she was by the pool at the hotel, and he told her he would come by.

Lewis told the jury that, at first, they sat on sun loungers before moving into the hot tub, where the man began to make sexual passes at the girl. They then moved into one of the bathrooms because the teenager said she was afraid people could see them. In the bathroom, he continued to sexually assault her before he went on to rape her.

Moments after she came out of the bathroom, her mother came looking for the girl and wanted to know who had been sitting by the pool with her. At first, she tried to say she did not know him, but her mother did not give up and pressed the girl, who eventually told her mother everything that had happened.

Her mother immediately informed the police, and the child was taken to the hospital. Experts at the child safeguarding unit then interviewed the child. She told them how they had chatted online, and he had told her she was funny and pretty, and she had believed he was about 17.

The man was arrested a few days later. He admitted that he had been messaging with the girl and exchanging pictures online, but he claimed that the girl had told him that she was 17, about to turn 18, and he had believed that she had acted in a very mature way.

He admitted going to meet her but denied having sex with the young girl in the bathroom, claiming she had made sexual advances towards him. However, he was unable to explain the medical evidence of the sexual encounter and the semen in samples taken from the girl at the hospital, according to the crown.

As Lewis outlined the details of the case for the jury, she explained that many of the images and messages that the child and the man exchanged had disappeared because they had used Snapchat.

However, she said the police were able to examine the man’s phone and found other messages that clearly demonstrated that he was well aware of how young the girl was and how she was “far from a mature woman”, as he had claimed.

Lewis said there were also messages that showed how the man had said things to imply that he was also a teenager, which showed how he had deliberately misled the girl into agreeing to send him naked pictures and provocative videos, and eventually meeting and enabling him to rape the child in the hotel bathroom.

The case continues.


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