Online groomer trapped by paedophile hunters 180 miles from Suffolk home

Bronnagh Brannigan was sentenced at Ipswich Crown Court Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Ipswich Crown Court - Credit: Charlotte Bond

A Suffolk man was confronted by paedophile hunters after driving 180 miles to meet a fictitious schoolgirl he groomed online.

Martin Walker was met by vigilante group 'Catching Online Predators' in the car park of a hotel near Bradford on May 6, 2018.

The 71-year-old, who had booked a room under a different surname, arrived with an unopened box of condoms in the glove compartment of his Vauxhall Astra. 

Walker appeared before magistrates in November to admit attempting to meet a child following grooming, attempting to cause a child to engage in sexual activity and attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child.

On Tuesday, he appeared for sentencing at Ipswich Crown Court.

Prosecutor Stephen Mather said: "The defendant asked to be added as a friend to a Facebook account purporting to belong to a 14-year-old girl.

"The chat gradually became sexual in nature, culminating in the defendant sending a photo of his penis.

Most Read

"He offered to book a hotel, said he would bring condoms, and asked if she liked wine."

During a live-streamed confrontation, 180 miles from his Shaftsbury Court home, in Haverhill, Walker became verbally aggressive, threatening to "knock seven bells" out of the group and return with a shotgun to "wipe them out". 

Mr Mather added: "He said he was going to buy the girl a gift and was only there to warn her about her behaviour."

Walker later told police he could tell he was being "reeled in" and thought he would "play a game" with the vigilantes. 

Eve Robinson, mitigating, said Walker had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and would be at heightened risk of serious ill-health from Covid-19 infection in the confined environment of prison.

She said any sentence should also account for the attempted meeting being with a fictional party, rather than an actual child victim, and that consideration should also be given for the lengthy delay before Walker was charged last August.

Miss Robinson said Walker was ashamed of his behaviour and had since stopped using social media.

"It demonstrates there is not the immediate need to protect the public with his removal from it," she added.

Recorder Heather Rogers QC sentenced Walker to 14 months' custody, suspended for 18 months, with up to 35 hours of rehabilitation activity requirement.

He will also be subject to a sexual harm prevention order and sex offenders' register notification requirements for 10 years.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter