February 2021

Hardwick man asked underage girl for sex chat in police sting

A jury took just 36 minutes yesterday to find a 55-year-old Hardwicke man guilty of trying to engage a 14-year-old girl in sex chat – who was really an undercover police officer.

David Mason of Wynnstay Court Road, Hardwicke, Gloucestershire, told ‘Libby Bowen’ – the officer’s alias – that he was pleasuring himself and asked her to watch, and later requested pictures of the ‘girl’.

Mason and the officer exchanged emails, which the police used to trace and arrest him at his home address before seizing his computer equipment for analysis, as part of the December 21, 2017, sting operation.

The jury was told that Mason logged into a chat room called ‘Just Teens’ but claimed he was just ‘role playing’ with like-minded adults and he gained no sexual gratification from the chat.

Prosecutor Catherine Flint told the jury of five men and seven women that Mason, using the name ‘Dave69’, began messaging another chat room user ‘ChristmasGeordieLass14’, a pseudonym used by an undercover female police officer posing as the 14-year-old girl.

The prosecutor said that Mason, using his true first name, Dave, began steering the conversation in a sexualised manner after linking up with ‘Libby.’ He asked for her age, sex and location, and she told him she was from Newcastle and was aged 14.

After a short while Mason he described his state of arousal and said he was pleasuring himself. He then asked whether ‘Libby’ would like to watch.

Mason went on to ask the girl to send him pictures of herself. They exchanged emails and it was through this channel of communication that Mason was later traced and subsequently arrested at his home address and his computer equipment was seized for analysis.

Mason claimed in evidence to the jury: “I had my suspicions that Libby was an adult. When I asked for her photograph I noticed that it had been doctored. This confirmed to me that I was talking to an adult.

“I told her that I grew up in Worcester and lived in Bristol or Gateshead and that I would be working on the railway network in Newcastle over Christmas.

“I wasn’t going to reveal my identity or where I live over the internet.

“As far as I was concerned it was role play. I didn’t do it for sexual gratification, I did it for something to do as my life had become rather boring.

“I don’t have a sexual interest in underage girls. You will not find any indecent images of children on my computer.”

Mason told the jury that he had used other chat rooms to act out his role play before he turned to the ‘Just Teens’ site.

Ms Flint pointed out to the jury that Mason was not role playing – he was effectively playing himself, a middle-aged 52-year-old man.

“There was nothing to indicate that ‘Libby’ was anything but a 14-year-old,” she added.

“He treated her like a child throughout the conversation.”

After the jury had returned their unanimous guilty verdict, Recorder James Waddington QC said he was unable to sentence Mason immediately as a number of reports had to be prepared before he could do so.

Mason was released on conditional bail to return to the court on Friday, April 16 for sentencing.