October 2016

Soldier jailed after being caught trying to meet schoolgirl for sex

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A DECORATED soldier who arranged to meet a teenage girl he met online for sex has been jailed following a sting operation by a fellow serviceman who posed as the 15-year-old.

Private Nicholas Mathews, 28, continued to chat with ‘Ellie’ after she revealed she was 15 on dating app Tinder and sent an array of crude sexual messages to her, including asking ‘what underwear are you going to wear when we meet?’

‘Ellie’ was invented by rifleman Daniel Sutor, who set out to catch paedophiles by starting the ‘Vigilante Nonce Hunting Group’, having been inspired by Channel 4 documentary ‘The Paedophile Hunter’.

A court martial heard that Mathews, who was 27 at the time, asked if she was going to perform a sex act on him and even told her ‘not to brag about having sex as he could get in a lot of trouble.’

However when Mathews arrived at a car park in Durrington, Wilts, where they planned to meet, he was greeted by a large crowd of soldiers who hurled abuse at him, charged at his car and even threw eggs and flour at it.

The court heard Mathews, who coincidentally turned out to work on the same base as the soldiers – Picton Barracks in Bulford, Wilts – was caught after the riflemen who egged his car were reported for their behaviour.

When the soldiers were investigated they revealed the sting operation and Mathews was then officially investigated.

Disgraced Mathews was dismissed from the army and jailed for 14 months at Bulford Military Court, Wilts, as the court heard he has been awarded medals in Cyprus and Afghanistan.

Mathews, who admitted one count of attempting to meet a child for sex following grooming, met Ellie on Tinder and then ‘took the initiative of getting her on a more anonymous site’, messaging service Kik.

Prosecutor Lieutenant Colonel Graham Coombes said Ellie’s account was originally listed 18, to meet Tinder’s requirements, but soon after they ‘matched’ she revealed she was 15 and asked if it was a problem.

Lt Col Coombes said: “It started when a rifleman in the local area set up social media accounts for a fictitious girl with the intent on catching men who attempt to meet young girls.

“The group the rifleman set up was the ‘Vigilante Nonce Hunting Group.’ He used a friend’s sister’s picture for the social media accounts of the girl, named Ellie.

“On dating sites Ellie’s age was listed as 18 as that is the minimum age on them. This was based on a Channel 4 documentary where a vigilante catches paedophiles.

“The rifleman intended to confront individuals and pass on information to the police.

“Not long after the accounts were set up Private Mathews started communicating with Ellie in April last year.

“Soon after Ellie told him she was not 18 but 15 instead, and asked him if he had a problem with that.

“Private Mathews said no and asked her if she had Kik so further conversation could take place.

“Conversation was mainly sexual between the pair and Mathews suggested they meet up for sexual activity and later asked her what underwear she was going to wear when they met up.

“He asked to meet her in a car park in Durrington and then go back to her parents’ house.

“He arrived at the car park and then a number of riflemen shouted abuse at him and charged at his car, throwing eggs and flour at the same time. Private Mathews drove off.”

One message from Mathews said he would meet Ellie ‘when it gets darker so he doesn’t get seen by anyone who knows him’ and he also asked ‘if she used tongue while snogging’.

Defending, Mark Ashley said: “So far as this matter is concerned it has an unusual background as it was a sting operation by soldiers.

“It’s quite clear his intention was not to meet young girls. He was on Tinder where you have to be 18, and he was not actively looking for girls under 18.

“His judgement has completely failed him and he realises it’s completely unacceptable. As a result of his stupidity there are consequences to follow.”

Judge Advocate Alistair McGrigor said: “You were the subject of a sting operation set up by a serviceman.

“You initially responded to a photograph on Tinder, however very soon after you were informed that Ellie was 15 – you were aged 27.

“You made it clear that not only did this not trouble you but then took the initiative of getting her on a more anonymous site [Kik] and moved on her in a sexual way.

“You asked what underwear she would be wearing and knew what was going on was wrong by requesting she not brag about it.

“While messaging you arranged to meet and go back to her parents, in due course you arrived only to find a group of servicemen waiting with eggs and flour.

“This is a serious and shameful offence.”

The court also heard rifleman Daniel Sutor intended to catch paedophiles near him and it was coincidental that he trapped a fellow soldier.