March 2012

Girl’s lucky escape from Twitter pervert posing as teen

Meet 17-year-old Zac. He’s not like most other teenagers – because he’s a middle-aged man posing as someone almost 40 years younger.

He clearly couldn’t get away with it in person, so he used the anonymity of the internet to pursue his perversion instead.

And one Maidstone girl had a very lucky escape after striking up an online relationship with the man she believed shared the same age bracket and interests.

The teenage girl even ran up a £400 phone bill chatting to the man she ‘met’ on Twitter.

But student Zac was in fact a 56-year-old convicted paedophile who had served a prison sentence for having sex with a child.

Now a judge has jailed devious sex predator Keith Westgarth for 28 months for what was described as a ‘sophisticated and premeditated’ deception.

Westgarth, of Cheriton Road, Folkestone, posted a picture of another youngster as ‘Zac’ and used his 21-year-old lover to pose as his sister to lure the girl into a relationship.

However, the law would only allow Westgarth to be charged with breaching notification rules which prevent him from using an alias.

James Bilsland, prosecuting, told Canterbury Crown Court: “They spoke regularly and although they had never met face to face she came to regard themselves as boyfriend and girlfriend.”

The prosecutor said they had an argument and she travelled to Folkestone asking for a meeting.

“He said he would come and find her but she was then contacted by someone claiming to be Zac’s sister.

“This was a sophisticated and premeditated deception over several months…” – Judge Adele Williams

“Later a car turned up driven by an older male, believed to be Westgarth,” he said.

“The sister got out and carried on the pretence that ‘Zac’ existed but the teenager insisted on a meeting with her cyber ‘boyfriend’.”

Mr Bilsland said a short while later a man – matching the picture posted on Twitter – arrived but after a short chat, she realised he knew nothing about her.

The prosecutor said that the ‘sister’ later visited the girl at her Maidstone home – and spoke “rather worryingly” about the three of them getting a flat together.

The girl later received a call suggesting Zac was actually a middle-aged man and she reported it to the police.

Police warned Westgarth to stay away – but he STILL continued to contact his victim via Twitter – and was arrested on a second charge of harassment.

Westgarth had previously been jailed for 16 months at Maidstone Crown Court on three counts of sexual activity with a child. His licence was later revoked and he was recalled to prison.

He was under an obligation to tell police if he used an alias – an offence which carries a maximum five year sentence.

Keith Westgarth was jailed for 28 months at Canterbury Crown Court

Paul Jarvis, defending, said: “This course of conduct was stopped before anything illegal happened. He has a low IQ and has a learning disability.

“Some might regard him as a man with the mind of a child. Others may regard him as being a dangerous sexual predator. Some may think that he falls somewhere between the two.”

Judge Adele Williams told the paedophile that he posed a serious risk to children and had “groomed” the 16-year-old through the social networking site.

“You used an alias on Twitter and the circumstances behind that are very serious indeed,” she said. “This was a sophisticated and premeditated deception over several months. You clearly have an ongoing sexual attraction to teenage girls. Your risk of re-offending has been assessed as ‘high’.”

She jailed him for a total of two years and four months after he admitted the charges and imposed a Sexual Offences Prevention Order.