August 2009

Paedophile jailed after burglars with a conscience tip off police about child abuse pictures on stolen laptop

 a paedophile was caught after disturbing child abuse images were uncovered by burglars who stole his laptop.

Richard Coverdale downloaded pictures of child abuse and also invented a 14-year-old character so he could expose himself to a shocked teenage girl over  the internet.

Coverdale, 24, of Redcar, North Yorkshire, was jailed for three-and-a-half years after thieves uncovered his crimes.

The burglars sparked the investigation which brought him to justice after they stole a laptop from his house on August 19 last year.

They uncovered a more disturbing crime than their own when they found child  pornography on the computer, and contacted the police.

A spokesperson for Cleveland Police said the force was ‘tipped off’ about the contents of the computer and its whereabouts.

Acting Detective Sergeant Chris Stone said: ‘Whilst they were carrying out an offence themselves, it is commendable that they did the right thing and this in turn has helped bring a serious offender to justice.’

Officers discovered 78 illegal images – 13 stills and 65 ‘movies’ – of varying  seriousness in law on Coverdale’s computer.

It also emerged that Coverdale, already a convicted arsonist, had been chatting online with a 14-year-old girl.

He pretended to be a 14-year-old boy called ‘Danny’, prosecutor Harry Hadfield  told Durham Crown Court yesterday.

Days before the burglary, he invited the female student to watch ‘Danny’ on a webcam, then filmed himself performing a sex act.

The girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, immediately stopped  communicating with him. She later said she felt degraded, humiliated and had since harmed herself.

Coverdale admitted engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child,  eight charges of making indecent photographs of children and one of possessing  such photos.

He confessed to police that he downloaded pictures of children and spoke to  girls in chat rooms.

Tom Mitchell, defending, said the crime against the girl was ‘remote’ because it was conducted through an electronic medium.

He added that she was not deprived of control and was able to switch it off.

Judge Brian Forster QC said Coverdale had conducted a calculated scam against the  girl and sentenced him to a total of three-and-a-half  years in prison.

He said children should be safe using the internet for education and  entertainment, and people had to be deterred from similar offending.

Coverdale was banned from working with children for life and will be given a  sexual offences prevention order next week.

In 2003 he was sent to a young offenders’ institution for four years with five years on extended licence for a series of arson offences. He set fire to five Redcar properties, some occupied, in one night.