It was every parent’s nightmare come true. A loving mother had gone to collect her 10-year-old daughter from a church group near to the family home, only to discover the little girl was nowhere to be found.
The next hour was the most terrifying of her life, frantically searching for her daughter.
As panic turned to fear, unwelcome thoughts of notorious cases where young schoolchildren had been kidnapped and murdered tortured the mother of six as she ran from street to street in Belfast screaming her daughter’s name.
An hour after the alarm had first been raised, her daughter, shaking and crying, returned home, having fled from the clutches of her abductor – a paedophile called Colin “Beep” Shaw.
She had been sexually assaulted by him.
Almost four years and several court trials later, life for the young child and her family remains a nightmare, with Shaw last week having walked free from jail, just hours after being sentenced to two years imprisonment for child abduction, sexually assaulting a child and sexually grooming a child.
“It was a Wednesday evening in September 2009 and my daughter was just outside at the top of the street with her chums.
“She was on her way to a church group at the church which is right by our house,” said the woman, who does not want to be named to protect the identity of her daughter.
“I walked over at 8.30pm to collect her, but she wasn’t there. They told me she hadn’t turned up that evening.
“I started panicking and asked some of the kids if they knew where she was and they told me she had gone away with some man.
“I felt sick to my stomach.”
“I got straight on the phone to the police and everyone on the street and neighbouring streets were out searching for her.
“All I could think about was that man Black (Robert Black who murdered Ballinderry school-girl Jennifer Cardy 30 years ago). You always hear these terrible stories, but never think it would happen to you.
“About an hour later I was talking to the police and we saw her at the top of the street.
“She was shaking and crying. I asked her where she had been and she said with a man called Colin Shaw. The police officer appeared to recognise the name immediately”.
It emerged that Shaw had befriended the child over several weeks while she was out playing with friends and had plied her with alcohol and cigarettes.
On the evening she disappeared, he had taken her to the Ozone leisure complex in Belfast where he sexually assaulted her.
Police searched Shaw’s east Belfast home and discovered a map with every nursery, primary and secondary school in the area circled, as well as a poem written about a girl with the same name as his victim.
He was charged with abduction, grooming and sexual assault and his victim bravely agreed to give evidence against him in court.
Much to his victim’s distress, several trials had to be stopped and restarted due to legal issues. It was not until November last year that he was finally found guilty by a jury.
And it took the courts until last week to finally sentence Shaw for his crimes.
But rather than the justice they had hoped for, his young victim, who is now 13, and her family have been left devastated by the “pathetic” sentence imposed by the court.
Shaw was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment and four years out on licence. Having spent two years on remand awaiting trial he was released from custody on the day that he was sentenced.
“I just felt sick when I heard. My daughter was sitting beside me when we were told about the pathetic sentence and then that he was getting out. She hasn’t stopped crying since and hasn’t left the house. She has also started self-harming,” the child’s mother said.
She added: “What justice is that? What punishment is that? We just feel helpless. We put our faith in the justice system, but from the very beginning the justice system looked after Shaw, not our daughter.”
A paedophile who first groomed and then sexually assaulted a ten-year-old schoolgirl was today (wed) jailed for two years and ordered to spend an extra four years on licensed parole.
However despite the sentence handed down to 48-year-old Colin ‘Beep’ Shaw at Belfast Crown Court, the dangerous pervert could be freed within days as he has already spent the equivalent of two years on remand.
Jailing him and also ordering him to sign the police sex offenders register for the next ten years, Judge Corinne Philpott QC warned him that if he failed to comply with probation or the terms of his licence, he would be sent back to jail to serve out that four year licence period.
The court heard police found a map of east Belfast with schools and nurseries marked on it among Shaw’s property.
The Deputy Recorder told Shaw that in assessing the danger he poses: “It is my view that while the offences are at the lower end of the sexual scale, if they had not been nipped in the bud they would have continued to a much more serious state.”
During his trial last November the jury heard how Shaw, originally from east Belfast but now with an address at a hostel on Victora Street in the city centre, befriended the ten-year-old girl, giving her cigarettes, often booze and taking her into the city centre and to the Ozone Leisure Complex.
His offending came to light on September 9 2009 when the girl failed to come home and when she eventually did, she told them how Shaw had twice kissed her on the cheek, touched her private parts over her clothing and hugged her before they parted company.
When Shaw’s property was searched, cops uncovered receipts for a mobile phone and SIM card, as well as a poem written about a girl with the same name as the ten-year-old girl.
Chillingly, officers also found a map of east Belfast pinned up on the wall marking out the dozens of nursery, primary and secondary school in the densely populated area.
Arrested and interviewed Shaw claimed he had done nothing wrong, asked why he could not be friends with the child and further claimed the schools on the map had been marked out for a friend and that it was “just an interest”.
However Judge Phlipott said that for a single man, neither married nor with children, “this court finds that a very strange interest” for which “an explanation has never been fully given”.
She told Shaw that it was possible to be friends with a child but that “people who are friends with children do not take advantage of them or treat them inappropriately as you have done”.
“You had a sexual interest in this girl and you know,” Shaw was told by the judge who revealed that it was only recently that he had accepted what he had done was wrong and was another factor which caused her concern as it showed “you are at a risk of reoffending”.
Shaw’s criminal record was another worrying feature, said the judge because he had been convicted of two indecent assaults 30 years ago and also of perverting justice in that he had supported his sister-in-law’s account over how her husband Stephen, Shaw’s brother had been killed.
In September 2010, 50-year-old Pauline Shaw was jailed for a minimum of four years after she pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of her husband Stephen Shaw by reason of diminished responsibility.
After the married couple had yet another argument on March 10 2009, she attacked her husband “in a rage” and stabbed him multiple times in the couples’ Maymount Street home in east Belfast but claimed he had been killed by two unknown men the night beforehand, a claim supported by ‘Beep’ Shaw.
While the offences of indecent assault related to an old girlfriend, “nonetheless that is in the background,” said the judge.
As well as the jail and extended licence terms, Judge Philpott also imposed an indefinite Sexual Offences Prevention Order, barring Shaw from having unsupervised contact with children, working with children, contacting his victim or her family and from visting or loitering near child-centred facilities.