Update: Offender now deceased 

July 2001

Park sex offender is captured on video by mother

A mother who turned video spy to capture a man who had made an obscene suggestion to her 11-year-old daughter, spoke of her satisfaction in seeing him jailed for a sex offence.

Had it not been for the presence of mind of the female witness, the man would still be at large.

When her daughter Colleen returned home and said she and a friend had been approached by the man in a park, the witness, 41, telephoned the police. Knowing it would take them some time to arrive, she then grabbed the family’s video camera and drove to the park.

The man was still there. She told the girls to hide and, pretending to be a tourist filming nearby Chichester Cathedral, West Sussex, she zoomed in on the man as he sat on a bench near where other children were playing.

The film was shown to a jury at Lewes Crown Court, East Sussex, where Anthony Willis denied a charge of indecency with a child. As Mrs O’Donaghue focused on the man’s face she could be heard to whisper: “Got you, you creep.”

The jury found Willis, a 58-year-old divorced father of two, guilty and he was jailed for nine months. They were told that he offered the girls £50 if they would spank him. When one of the girls asked him why, the former psychiatric nurse replied: “Because I want it.”

When police arrived the witness handed over the video footage and pointed the man out. He was arrested and claimed he was a victim of mistaken identity.

Judge Richard Brown placed Willis, from Chichester, on the Sex Offenders’ Register. He said: “For a young child, any approach by an adult inviting them to commit an act of indecency must be a very frightening experience.”

The witness, a sign language teacher, waived her right to anonymity to talk about the case. She said: “Too many people allow offences to go unreported, but when Colleen told me what happened there was no way I was going to let him get away with it.”

She told the girls to change into different clothes and hide their hair inside baseball caps, so that they would not be recognised.

The woman said: “When we arrived at the park, both girls said at the same time `That’s him’. For a moment, I felt like having a go at him, but I know that’s not the way to go about things.”