June 2021

Bexhill man and woman sentenced following sex offences

An army cadet leader sexually abused a girl in his troop after a Remembrance Sunday event marking the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

Lieutenant Dennis Bowie groomed the girl while he was a detachment commander of the army cadets in Bexhill.

The married 49-year-old was in cahoots with Sergeant Alice McElhinney, 33, where they groomed the cadets and shared their perverted fantasies with one another.

At Lewes Crown Court it was revealed Bowie had groped and kissed a 14-year-old girl.

The victim, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, said the abuse left her self-harming.

In a statement she said: “I was used and felt trapped, I didn’t see any way of getting out of it.”

Bowie admitted an offence of sexual communication with a child, two offences of sexual activity with a child, and also three offences of making indecent images of children.

He was sentenced to five years and two months in prison.

McElhinney admitted one offence of sexual communication with a child, and two offences of sexual activity with a child. She was sentenced to a total of three years and nine months imprisonment.

Her Honour Judge Janet Waddicor described the offending as a massive breach of trust.

The judge said: “It’s an abuse of trust by her family and the trust placed in them by the cadets.

“It was almost as if they were playthings.”

Amy Packham, prosecuting, told the court how Bowie and McElhinney shared hundreds of text messages about their desires to sexually abuse cadets.

In one message, Bowie told McElhinney he was disappointed with his attempts to abuse the girl after buying alcohol for cadets after the Remembrance Day service.

“Hey, I paid £75 and you got the snog. Lol,” Bowie sent in a text to McElhinney.

They had both been volunteers with the army cadets in Bexhill for years, Ms Packham said.

“There was discussion about what they were doing or trying to do with the young cadets on their phones,” Ms Packham said.

The messages showed the relationship between defendants was open and they were relaxed about the comments they were making to each other.

“They trust each other with what would be seen as highly controversial views.

“Both were interested in the cadets sexually and suggested relations with previous cadets,” Ms Packham said.

Four young females had been identified as possible victims after McElhinney’s phone was seized by police.

McElhinney tried to claim the messages were just “banter”.

The victim said: “I felt like my life would fall apart. I felt like nothing. I felt like a toy. It took me a long time to realise it wasn’t my fault.”

Bowie, of Orchard Road, Bexhill, and McElhinney, of Cornwall Road, Bexhill, are both now behind bars.

They will both be registered sex offenders for life, and Sexual Harm Prevention Orders were issued to both which will restrict their access to children.