January 2018

Ex-serviceman who had been grooming 13 year old caught in online sting

An ex-serviceman who travelled across Somerset to meet a 13-year-old girl found himself surrounded by paedophile hunters – who published a video of the sting on Facebook.

Matthew Russell, of High Street, Wells, communicated with vigilantes posing as a teen over a three month period in 2017 before travelling to a holiday park in Burnham-on-Sea hoping to meet the girl.

Footage of them confronting him over his grooming was published on the social media site by a group known as Northwest Avengers and viewed more than 2,600 times.

It shows Russell being detained by a group of men in a street for nearly half an hour before police arrive.

Sentencing Russell to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years, a judge told him he’d ruined his life.

Judge David Ticehurst said: “There is concern that groups such as these can prejudice a proper, police investigation and that publishing them on the internet is not something that is necessarily helpful.

“But they are one of the consequences of what you were doing – of talking to people you don’t know online.

“You were sexually attracted to what you thought was a 13-year-old girl.

“Before this you had no criminal record and an unblemished character.

“That has all come to an end. You have ruined your life.”

Russell admitted a charge of attempting to meet a child after grooming at an earlier hearing.