July 2022

‘Preteen lover’ collected hundreds of images of children and hid iPhone under the floor

A paedophile collected more than 1,500 indecent images on an iPhone he kept hidden away under the floorboards of his bedroom.

When caught out, Daniel Middlehurst claimed that he had been gathering the sick images and videos – which showed girls aged as young as four being sexually abused – on behalf of the police.

Officers also found pairs of girls’ underwear stashed under his mattress when they raided his home in St Helens.

Liverpool Crown Court heard today, Friday, that the National Crime Agency alerted Merseyside Police to suspect IP addresses linked to the property on Shaw Street.

Officers executed a search warrant on December 4 last year, at which point Middlehurst “denied any material was present”.

But the 28-year-old had in fact been posing online under the pseudonym “Preteen Lover” and had collected a total of 1,744 indecent images of children since November 2013.

They “showed females aged approximately four to 13”, with most being videos and 1,148 graded as category A – pictures and movies showing the most serious forms of abuse.

The majority were found on encrypted cloud storage and the photo gallery on a mobile discovered under a loose floorboard in Middlehurst’s room.

He had also searched the internet with terms including “Snapchat 8 Lolita” and “jailbait”.

The defendant then told the police this was the “only device on which material would be found” and the phone in question had “only been used in that way for a short period of time”.

But the search also revealed a second damaged iPhone which contained 180 vile pictures in a Dropbox.

The two phones contained 85 extreme pornographic images which, according to Middlehurst’s charge sheet, showed persons “performing acts of intercourse or oral sex with animals”.

He refused to provide the pin number for a third mobile which was seized

Also recovered from the address were a pair of girls’ knickers for a child aged 13 to 14 – found in bag alongside “other female underwear” – and two further pairs of girls’ knickers underneath his mattress, as well as a quantity of cannabis.

Under interview and in consultations with the Probation Service, Middlehurst “made assertions he was gathering the images to send to the police and had no sexual interest in children” and claimed to have been a class B dealer at one stage.

He held his head in his hands crying through the hearing.

Middlehurst – who has one previous conviction for driving matters in 2017 – admitted possession of indecent images, three counts of making indecent images, one of possession of extreme pornographic images and possession of cannabis. He was handed an eight-month imprisonment suspended for two years.

Judge Neil Flewitt also handed him a 10-year sexual harm prevention order and a notification requirement lasting the same period. Sentencing, he said: “I’m not going to send you immediately to prison.

“I want you to understand why these offences are serious. They are serious because each of those images you saved on your phone were images of real children being sexually abused.

“These are not victimless offences. People like you watching these images creates a market for further abuse of children, in this case very young girls between the ages of four and 13.

“I do not accept that you did not have any sexual interest in children. It is typical of people in your situation.

Middlehurst must also complete 120 hours of unpaid work and a rehabilitation activity requirement of up to 60 days. Judge Flewitt imposed a victim surcharge and forfeiture of the phones and drugs.