October 2021

Police released Romney Marsh paedophile twice after paedo hunters caught him only for him to strike again

A “remorseless” paedophile was released by police twice only to strike again.

Paedophile hunters twice caught Barry Watling, of Romney Marsh, sending horrific messages and trying to meet underage girls in 2017 and 2019.

But police released the 33-year-old under investigation on both occasions, despite sickening pictures of child torture being found on his phone.

Now, the predator has been sentenced to three-and-a-half years custody at Canterbury Crown Court.

Hunting for illegal material, Watling pestered abuse activist Louise Walton’s profile in 2017, where she stated repeatedly she was 13.

The abuser sent images of himself, asked for some in return, then tried convincing the decoy they were in a relationship, prosecutors explained.

“He turned the conversation sexual.

“He said they should become boyfriend and girlfriend and she must keep it secret from her mother,” Jenny Burgess said.

Ms Walton handed Watling’s illicit recordings and pictures to police who carried out an arrest in September the same year.

But he was released under investigation despite indecent images of children being discovered on his phone – some involved torture.

After walking free Watling’s attention turned to Michelle Burns in 2019, another child abuse activist posing as a girl, aged 13.

Watling sent her texts and phoned her, then attempted to meet the ‘child’ in Herne Bay for sex. But when Ms Burns turned in her evidence police again arrested Watling only to release him under investigation.

Watling would not face a judge until 2021 thanks to the brave detective work of a woman posing as a teenager.

When Watling contacted her she said she was 13 to put him off but he persisted and she kept him engaged for long enough to garner enough information to lead to his final arrest.

“It was a disturbing experience to communicate with the defendant, she felt very uncomfortable but she wanted to find out more about what was going on before reporting him to the police,” Ms Burgess said.

Sentencing Watling, Judge Simon James said: “The concern the court has is certainly back in 2017 the man had been identified in highly sexualised conversations with a child, and found with images depicting the sexual abuse of children.

Watling, of Coast Drive, Lydd-on-Sea, pleaded guilty to six non-contact sexual offences at an early opportunity.