June 2022

Granddad sent perverted and sick messages to ’14-year-old girl’ that was really a paedophile hunter

A grandfather sent sick messages to an online contact he thought was a 14-year-old girl — but turned out to be a ‘paedophile hunter’.

Raymond Francis believed he was talking to a child when he fantasised about “fondling” her and “making love” in her mother’s bed.

The 64-year-old from Newport started an online conversation last July with a profile for a fictional child, Tia Johnson.

In reality he was messaging a member of Elite Solo Decoys — a paedo hunter group which “identifies people who seek out children on the internet”, Cardiff Crown Court heard on Monday.

Prosecutor Matthew Roberts said the conversation stretched across a 91-page chat thread in the space of a week as Francis became increasingly “persistent, determined and sexually explicit”.

The team had from the beginning told Francis that she was 14, sending computer-generated images of an underage girl which prompted the defendant to compliment her “sexy figure”.

“The defendant said he wished ‘Tia’ was 16 before going on to ask if she would like sex now,” Mr Roberts added. “The subject turned to the issue of contraception in the form of the pill, and she said she had not yet had a boyfriend.

He sent pictures of himself topless, which were taken a number of years ago when the defendant was a lot more youthful.

He asked for pictures of her breasts in return. She did not send any. He told her he drooled over pictures of her with long hair. He then told Tia she should delete pictures of him from her computer in case her mother located them.”

Francis talked of “fondling” Tia in the shower and sent her images of couples having sex. He told her to “hurry up and get on the pill soon” because he hated using condoms. He also told her: “Don’t tell anyone at all Tia.”

Mr Roberts said Francis sought to make arrangements for sex with Tia when her mother was away. The granddad-of-four discussed “making love in your mother’s bed all night”.

Francis was arrested at the Coldra Roundabout McDonald’s restaurant after being duped into a meeting with a different decoy run by a separate paedophile-hunting group.

While being recorded Francis told the vigilantes he had been “chatting, nothing more”, before they passed evidence to police.

No charges came from the McDonald’s meeting because Francis had believed he was meeting an adult, according to his barrister Stuart John.

But the defendant, of Westfield Avenue, pleaded guilty to attempted sexual communication with a child over the Tia Johnson messages.

The judge, Recorder Duncan Bould, accepted Francis would be “extremely vulnerable” in prison due to his age and health issues.

He said the defendant’s actions were “insidious” and “designed to manipulate”, but he was “just” persuaded that Francis should be spared immediate custody.

He imposed an eight-month prison term suspended for two years and ordered the defendant to complete 30 days of rehab activity and a sex offender programme.

Francis, who will be under a sexual harm prevention order for 10 years barring him from unsupervised contact with under-16s, must pay £700 in prosecution costs and a £156 victim services surcharge at a rate of £20 per week.