Plymouth woman sexually abused drugged young girl on webcam
A vile woman has been found guilty of sexually abusing a drugged girl while streaming her actions live to a watching paedophile in the United States.
Twisted Sarah Gotham, aged 34, (pictured with red hair) touched the youngster in front of a webcam, sending images to a woman in California over Skype.
Co-defendant Craig Forbes, aged 36, had already admitted abusing the girl more than four years ago.
Today at Plymouth Crown Court, Gotham was jailed for nine years and Forbes for eight years.
They were convicted after self-confessed paedophile Kori Ellis was arrested in San Francisco and admitted encouraging the man and woman to abuse the child for her pleasure.
Police are not certain who the child is – but believe she must have been drugged and appeared unaware of the vile acts
Gotham, from Plymouth, went on trial after denying six counts of sexually assaulting a child under the age of 13 between December 2012 and March 2013.
She claimed at Plymouth Crown Court that she never knew Ellis and did not know the child involved.
But a jury took just three hours and 20 minutes to convict Gotham by a unanimous verdict on all counts at the end of a seven-week trial held amid unprecedented security.
Forbes, aged 36, a former company director, admitted three counts of sexual assault back in February
Today the trial judge lifted the reporting restriction
Ellis, aged 42, a waitress in a San Francisco strip bar, firmly identified Gotham and Forbes during a wide-ranging investigation which saw police criss-crossing the Atlantic.
And police recovered pictures of sales advisor Gotham on her computer, which she had Googled to identify the woman she saw over the webcam.
The American, who has also worked as dominatrix and a magician’s assistant, also picked Gotham out of a video identification parade.
Ellis met Forbes and Gotham on a “chat roulette” site called Omegle and they swapped details so they could speak privately over Skype.
Ellis, giving evidence over a videolink from San Francisco, chillingly said that she enjoyed watching the abuse in what she called “shows” on five separate occasions.
Now in prison, she said she would sometimes refer to the child as “sleeping beauty”, and that she was drugged at the time.
Forbes, twice previously convicted of having child abuse images, has admitted the abuse but denied the child was drugged.
The child was apparently oblivious to the vile acts she suffered.
FBI officers also travelled to the United Kingdom to give live evidence for what is thought to be the first time in a UK trial.
Police criss-crossed the Atlantic in a wide-ranging police investigation which ended in a complex and difficult series of trials.
FBI officers gave live evidence in a British court for what is believed to be the first time. As part of the investigation, UK detectives travelled to San Francisco to carry out interviews.
The trial itself, after an earlier hearing was abandoned, was held in levels of unprecedented security amid fears of vigilantes.
Anyone attending the public gallery had to give their name to security staff and surrender their mobile phone.
Events unfolded after San Francisco crystal meth addict and strip bar waitress Kori Ellis was caught at her home inciting children into sex acts online in April 2015.
She had been traced through computer traffic with another US paedophile.
While sat in a police car outside her home, Ellis made the remarkable confession of watching a British couple abuse a young child over Skype some two years before.
She gave officers further details and, together with information on the computer, including explicit Skype webchats, Sarah Gotham and Craig Forbes were identified.
British police arrested them at separate addresses in Plymouth in May 2015 – catching Forbes with indecent images of children which saw him jailed three months later.
But Gotham said she knew nothing about Ellis or the abuse.
And so two police officers and a civilian identification officer travelled to California to carry out a video ID parade in November. Ellis picked out Gotham’s image among the stooges.
She was also interviewed as part of Operation Thorn.
Senior investigating officer Det Sgt Brian Slade said experts downloaded 64 A3 pages of Skype chatlogs between December 2013 and May 2015. The facility allows users to type comments as they watch each other on screen.
Forbes and Gotham were re-arrested in December last year and appeared before Bodmin magistrates charged with sexual assaults and rape. The rape charges were later dropped.
Forbes admitted three sexual assaults at Plymouth Crown Court in February – as well as separate child images offences.
Gotham was due to stand trial in May, but the case was not ready.
She returned for a hearing in August and the trial began but was stopped within days because of problems with the jury.
Among other things, by a remarkable coincidence, one of the jurors was innocently contacted by a canvasser for The Herald trying to sell newspapers.
Self-styled paedophile hunters were in the public gallery as the trial began – and another man was thrown in the cells for posting messages about the defendants on social media.
The retrial started amid unprecedented security with a ticket system and no publicity to attract people who may cause distruption
Those with a genuine interest in the case were allowed to attend but had to surrender their mobile phones in case someone was tempted to take a photograph.
Four FBI agents flew in to give evidence from the witness box, coming from San Francisco, Washington, Detroit and San Diego. One was on the stand for just six minutes.