A 78-year-old paedophile drove more than 100 miles to meet a ’13-year-old girl’ who turned out to be an undercover police officer. Leslie Gearing travelled to Central Park, in Peterborough, from his home in Chatham, Kent, on 20 February.
He had arranged to meet the “13-year-old girl” after a period of online grooming which began in December 2022. Gearing exchanged messages with the decoy, sending numerous sexually explicit photographs, and complimenting her appearance.
He also asked the decoy to clear any trace of their conversations and said any photos he received would be placed in an encrypted folder on his computer. Gearing said she was “a very pretty girl” and he wanted to take naked photos of her and have sex. He was arrested on his arrival in Peterborough in a pre-planned operation by specialist officers from the force’s Paedophile Online Investigation Team (POLIT).
A search of Gearing’s car uncovered items including child-size underwear, sex toys and camera equipment. More than 30,000 indecent images of children were also discovered across multiple electronic devices found at his home. Examination of the devices also found further sexual communication with children and communications with adults, with attempts to arrange sexual activity with children.
On Monday (18 September), at Cambridge Crown Court, Gearing, of McKenzie Road, Chatham, Kent, was jailed for three years and 11 months having pleaded guilty to three counts of making indecent photographs of a child, three counts of attempted sexual communication with a child, two counts of causing a child aged 13 to 15 to watch or look at an image of sexual activity, two counts of distributing an indecent photograph of a child, one count of possession of an extreme pornographic image and one count of attempting to meet a child under 16 following grooming.
Gearing was found guilty of a further count of attempting to meet a child under 16 following grooming and this was ordered to lie on file.
DC Cheryl Lee, from the POLIT, said: “Gearing, through his self-serving depravity, was prepared to travel more than 100 miles with no care for the physical and emotional damage he would have caused by engaging in sexual activity with an underage child.
“The items he brought with him show just how much of a risk he poses to children. Thankfully he has been exposed and caught and will be held accountable for his actions. We will leave no stone unturned when it comes to keeping the county’s young and vulnerable people safe from harm.”
Any parents, carers and those involved with young people, who have concerns any child could be at risk, should contact police on 101, via Webchat or, in the case of immediate harm, 999.
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