A UNIVERSITY student tried to bed 40 young girls he met over the Internet by blackmailing them with explicit pictures of themselves that they e-mailed to him, a court was told.
Oliver Randall, 19, who groomed the children aged as young as 12 using Internet social networking websites, was jailed for four years yesterday.
The bio-chemistry student encouraged the vast majority to strip off in front of webcams and told them he would post the images on the Internet if they did not meet him for sex.
Two girls, both aged 15, did agree to meet him and had sex with him in a field and a car park, but the others refused.
He was found out when the mother of one 12-year-old girl read an obscene text message he had sent her daughter.
Randall, formerly of Bothenhampton, near Bridport, West Dorset, was arrested at Southampton University. His laptop was seized by police who found dozens of picture and film files of his victims in various states of undress.
He admitted the offences and was branded by the judge at Dorchester Crown Court as an “obsessive predator who exploited vulnerable girls”.
The court was told that Randall began grooming his first victim in August 2005 when he was 16 and within three years had made contact with 40 girls. He collected dozens of files containing moving images and explicit photographs. On a scale of one to five, they were graded by police at level four, five being the worst.
Detective Inspector Becky Riggs, of Dorset Police, said: “Randall was at university for some of the offences but it started when he was living at home.
“His first contact with a victim was actually in person but he later got into conversations with her on MSN, Bebo and MySpace. Randall then began striking up conversations with other girls on the Internet but the chat quickly turned to explicit sexual behaviour.
“He persuaded them to expose themselves and pose in the nude for pictures before trying to encourage them to send them to him. Many of his victims did send them but once he’d got them, Randall used a form of blackmail against them. He said he would put the photographs over the Internet unless they met up with him for sex.”
Det Con Neil Thurd said that Randall persuaded two 15-year-old girls to meet with him. “Randall persuaded the vast majority of his 40 victims to take pictures of themselves and send them to him,” he said.
“He then used these pictures as leverage to take their behaviour on a stage further with a good percentage of them. Two girls actually went to meet him, both were aged 15 and both had sex with him. One of them had been blackmailed by Randall in the past but felt she was in love with him.”
Randall drove the girl to a field where they had sex and he filmed her engaging in sexual activity.
DC Thurd added: “The other girl met him in a car park in Dorchester and also had sexual intercourse with him.”
Randall was arrested in June 2008 after trying to persuade a 12-year-old girl to meet up with him for sex.
DC Thurd said: “He had encouraged the girl to remove her clothing for a picture and she eventually did – he then said she had to meet him for sex.
“The girl told him that it was disgusting as she was only 12. Her mother then became suspicious and checked her phone and called the police.”
DC Thurd described Randall as “very intelligent”. He added: “In interview, he was honest from the start and admitted he had been honest with the girls about his own age and who he was.
“But we did find that he struggled to see the consequences of his actions. He’s very intelligent but became fixated with the girls.”
Randall admitted 23 charges including engaging a child under 16 in sexual activity, inciting a girl under 16 in sexual activity, grooming children on the Internet and making and taking indecent images of children.
He asked for a further 60 similar offences to be taken into consideration.
The court was told all of his victims were aged between 12 and 18 and lived in Dorset, Somerset and Hampshire.
Jamie Porter, defending, said his client had had a difficult life because he was bullied at school and his father had died when he was younger. After the charges, he was rejected by members of his family and resorted to self-harm in prison.
Judge Harvey Clark told Randall he had exploited vulnerable girls and caused them to feel “shame, degradation, humiliation and guilt”.
As well as being jailed, Randall would be kept on licence for six years after his release and he would sign on the Sex Offenders’ Register for life.