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‘Devious, persistent and prolific sex offender’ jailed for 10 years

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A NATIONWIDE investigation into 120 potential victims of online grooming led by Dyfed-Powys Police has resulted in a 43-year-old man being jailed for 10 years.

Neil Antony Derrick Payne, of Bronwydd in Carmarthen, was described in court as a ‘devious, persistent and prolific sex offender’.

The court heard how he posed as a teenage boy on social media, and then tried to get his victims to meet his fictitious uncle in order to abuse them.

In some instances, he said his ‘uncle’ would be mad if the victims didn’t meet him.

Helen Randall, prosecuting, told the court that a 13-year-old girl was contacted by Payne, who was posting to be a 14-year-old boy, and send her lewd pictures.

She was then offered £200 to visit his ‘uncle’ for a sex act.

The girl went to the meet – with a friend – but faked a phone call from her father, saying he was a policeman, and took the £200 before running off.

Payne then threatened her and said he would report her to the police.

The court heard similar stories involving other girls aged 13 to 15, and analysis of his PC showed he spoke to ‘hundreds’ of young people.

He pleaded guilty to meeting a child after grooming with intention of sexual activity, causing or inciting children to engage in sexual activity, and possession of indecent images.

He was handed a 15 year sentence: a 10 year determinate sentence with a five year extension for causing or inciting a child to engage in a sexual activity.

He was also sentenced for 12 months, eight years and four years for the other charges, which will run concurrently.

Payne will also be subject to a serious harm prevention order for life, as well as sign on the sex offenders register for life.

HOW THE POLICE CAUGHT HIM

The force conducted an intense digital investigation into social media profiles set up by Payne, who acted as a teenage boy online with the sole aim of inciting young girls into sexual activity.

Payne was arrested after a teenage girl reported making contact with a man who had been purporting to be a 17-year-old boy on Facebook. Computers were seized from his home and were examined by the Digital Communications and Cyber Crime Unit (DCCU).

A forensic examination of devices seized from Payne revealed that he had set up 11 different profiles over Facebook, WhatsApp, Skype, Oovoo, Snapchat and Kik. His pseudo profiles featured photographs of young males aged 15-17 years.

Payne would trawl the internet for contacts and target friends of friends. Using these fake accounts, he had been sending friend requests to girls across the UK for around 18 months. On Facebook alone, 172 people accepted his friend request.

Images, videos and text conversations were extracted, as well as information from social media profiles which were used to identify how many of the girls behind the 500 usernames were potential victims.

A DCCU analyst formatted 15,000 lines of text over each social media network into individual conversations between Payne and the girls he befriended. She quickly established a pattern, with his most frequent conversation opener used 119 times. He would say they had friends in common, or that he had recently moved to the area and wanted to meet people.

Detective Sergeant Mathew Davies, of the Police Online Investigation Team, said: “His intent was to send a mass message out to young girls using these regular lines. He was in contact with hundreds of people over his various accounts – starting off requesting random people as friends, and then working through their friend list to add others.

“Our analyst pulled out conversations with each girl, so even if he moved people to different platforms to chat we could still track what had been said between them. He had a pattern of conversation, and would try to move the girls onto Snapchat or Skype, saying his uncle was lonely and needed friends. He was then pretending to be this boy’s uncle on these accounts.”

An enormous task was undertaken by officers and members of the DCCU to identify from images, videos, text conversations and social media the potential victims of grooming and incitement. Evidence was collated by DS Sian Davies, who oversaw the entire investigation, and over 90 intelligence and safeguarding packages were put together. These were delivered across the UK with the assistance of other police forces.

Detective Inspector Jayne Butler, of Carmarthen CID, said: “In many cases we only had online usernames to go by in trying to find and contact the people we needed to speak to. There were a number of enquiries to try and identify where they lived, with forces across the country helping to make contact with them.”

As the investigation progressed, a report of incitement was made to Dyfed-Powys Police in October 2017, which was linked to Payne. Within two days, he was arrested. He was charged with a total of eight offences – meeting a girl aged under 16 following grooming, five counts of causing or inciting a girl aged 13 to 15 to engage in sexual activity, and two counts of possessing indecent photographs or pseudo photographs of a child.

In December 2017 Payne pleaded guilty to all eight offences at Swansea Crown Court. On Wednesday, January 31, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with a further five years on license.

DI Butler said: “We are pleased with the sentence handed to Payne for these predatory offences. He took on the guise of a teenage boy to specifically target young girls online, gaining their trust before attempting to groom them.

“A complex investigation which spanned numerous other forces has resulted in putting him behind bars, which I hope is some consolation to his victims. This sentence just goes to show that people cannot hide behind pseudonyms to commit what they believe are faceless crimes via social media.

“What is worrying is how willing some young people are to engage with strangers on the internet. I would really like to urge parents of teenagers – male or female – to be aware of who their children are talking to.

“It might be difficult, but please try to find a way to talk to them about the dangers that can be posed on social media.  Please urge them to stop and think if they receive a friend request from someone they don’t know – it might not be the person they say they are.

“We know from just this one investigation that teenagers are willing to accept friend requests from people they don’t know and have never met, which has the potential to put them at risk of harm.”

Dyfed-Powys Police would encourage any victims of sexual offences to have the confidence to come forward and report the offence. All reports are dealt with seriously and sensitively. Reports can be made by calling 101.

For more information on helping to keep your children safe online, visit www.ceop.police.uk or www.parentzone.org.uk

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Drink driver hospitalised and arrested

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A MAN who was hospitalised after crashing his car on the B4310, Drefach, has also been arrested for drink driving.

The crash, which happened in the early hours of Sunday morning (Feb 18), destroyed the Mercedes he was driving.

He hit a van which was parked outside of a property, which was also damaged.

Dyfed-Powys Police, Welsh Ambulance Service, and Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service personnel attended the scene.

A spokesman for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service said: “We were called to reports of a road traffic collision at 12.50am on Sunday morning on the B4310 in Drefach.

“We sent crews from Pontyates and Tumble at the scene and one male was cut out of a car using hydraulic cutting equipment and taken to hospital.”

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‘Connecting Carmarthenshire’ campaign takes a leap forward

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Making progress: Jonathan Edwards MP, Adam Price AM and Geraint Trello

EFFORTS to improve the availability of high speed internet and good mobile phone signal took a leap forward this week as EE sets about switching on new mobile phone masts and launches its 4G Home Broadband solution.

Representatives of EE came to Carmarthenshire this weekend to meet with Member of Parliament, Jonathan Edwards and Assembly Member, Adam Price who have led a ‘Connecting Carmarthenshire’ campaign.

Their meeting, which took place near the site of one of two new mobile phone masts near Abergorlech, focused on the upgrades and improvements the company is undertaking across rural Carmarthenshire, with a particular focus on EE’s new 4G Home Broadband solution which can provide superfast broadband via an antenna on the house – a solution EE says could help around 580,000 homes nationwide gain access to high speed connectivity.

The Plaid Cymru politicians said the new improved mobile signal was itself “a big advancement”, but said the launch of the 4G antenna was “a leap forward” for connecting rural Carmarthenshire communities.

Member of Parliament Jonathan Edwards said: “It was a pleasure to welcome EE to Carmarthenshire and continue our discussions on improving connectivity in rural Wales. One new mast will be switched on in Abergorlech in a matter of weeks, with another new mast for the Llansawel region with us later in the year.

“These new masts add to the 27 4G upgrades EE has carried out to existing sites in Carmarthenshire over the last 12 months, providing better coverage for rural communities including Llanybydder, Pencader and Llanarthne, adding to the upgrades from other mobile phone giants across the county.

“Perhaps the most impressive news this week is the launch of EE’s Home Broadband solution which, with the use of a small antenna on the home, can bring superfast broadband to the house. This looks like it could be the answer for many properties which have been left behind during the fixed line upgrades, or where they can only receive slower fixed broadband speeds.

“It’s not for an elected representative to promote a particular private company, but where there appears to be a solution for so many properties to get high speed internet, I have no problem in promoting the product – particularly because when it was trialed it delivered speeds over 100Mbps! This is a giant leap forward.

“Connecting Carmarthenshire is really starting to see positive results, but I’ll keep on working to ensure everyone I represent achieves good connectivity.”

Assembly Member Adam Price said: “The new sites in the Abergorlech area are the latest in a long time of upgrades in recent months, with the added bonus of those mobile signals being used for superfast internet in the home.

“Given that various grants for broadband solutions are available from the Welsh Government, we believe those who can’t get access to fixed broadband connections or receive a glacial pace connection may well be able to receive a grant to have products like 4G Home Broadband installed at their homes.

“I’d encourage anyone who is interested in a grant to cover the costs of delivering a step change in their broadband speeds to visit the Welsh Government’s website to check eligibility, or contact Jonathan and I where we can send information to them directly.

“More and more people across our Carmarthen East and Dinefwr constituency are seeing the benefits of good mobile phone signal and much faster broadband. We’ve still got a little way to go, but local residents are seeing big advancements. We’re delighted the Connecting Carmarthenshire campaign is delivering tangible results for the county.”

On the launch of EE’s 4G Home Broadband solution, Max Taylor, Managing Director of Marketing, EE said: “As our network continues to expand into some of the most remote parts of the UK, we’ve seen the amazing impact that 4G connectivity can have on rural communities. Our newest 4G home broadband router and antenna takes this one step further, ensuring thousands of families in rural areas across the UK could enjoy the benefits of superfast broadband inside their home for the very first time – whether video-calling the grandparents or streaming their favourite TV series.”

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4.4 magnitude earthquake felt across Wales

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AN earthquake of 4.4 magnitude has been felt across Wales and England this afternoon (Feb 17).

There are numerous reports of the earthquake being felt across west Wales, including Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion.

The earthquake originated near Swansea, where it is was felt strongest, at around 2:30pm.

However, the earthquake was felt across Wales, and many parts of England.

The EMSC, an independent monitor of earthquakes, said: “Latest update of the effects of the #earthquake in #Swansea region. Was felt up to 300 km from epicentre.”

Dyfed-Powys Police received many reports about the incident, but said that there was no need for concern, and that they felt it themselves in their control room.

The police force said: “We are receiving an extremely high call volume reporting some sort of earth tremor in the area – we are receiving reports from across the whole of Wales (we felt it in our control room too!). For now – it is unexplained – but there is nothing to worry about.”

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