A PAEDOPHILE has been jailed for sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl just months before she killed herself.
Kevin Palmer was caught by police with Danielle Formosa in a tent he took along to their meeting.
Palmer, 39 at the time but now 40, first met the teenager four months earlier and told her he was a 19-year-old law student.
Danielle, in care at the time of the offences and described in court as a “troubled young girl”, sent texts to Palmer to arrange the meeting last June.
Robert Woodcock, prosecuting, told Newcastle Crown Court that the pair met in Sunderland and bought cigarettes and a can of fizzy drink.
They then went to a park where Palmer, then living at Pennywell Bail Hostel, Sunderland, put up the tent, and they listened to music from his phone.
A passing police officer checked on them, and they both gave false names, but as he walked away, he heard Danielle refer to Palmer as ‘Kev’.
Another officer later arrived and asked them to get out of the tent and for their names and ages. When Danielle gave her details to the police, Palmer quickly packed up his tent fled before being arrested at home.
Danielle was found dead at East Farmhouse home in County Durham in December. She was 14 at the time.
Palmer was originally accused of raping the schoolgirl and appeared at court for trial, but he pleaded guilty to the lesser charges of engaging in sexual activity in the presence of Danielle and causing or inciting her to engage in sexual activity.
Nick Peacock, defending, said Palmer has had a difficult life and showed remorse about the offences and the death of Danielle – a claim Judge Penny Moreland rejected.
Jailing him for four and a half years, the judge told Palmer: “In my view, what you did was groom her for sexual activity by persisting in seeing her.
“I take the view that you planned to commit a sexual offence against her, and you planned to do so by taking a tent.
“She has, since these offences, taken her own life. You can’t be held to account for that. I have no doubt that what you did caused distress and upset. I am not satisfied that you show remorse for what you did. I find no evidence of this.
“I accept that you have had your own difficulties and your own life has not been straight forward, but that is no excuse for these offences.”
Palmer was also ordered to sign the sex offences’ register for life, and he will be banned from having contact with children under 16 without social workers present.
Speaking after the case, acting detective chief inspector Shelley Hudson welcomed the sentence, saying: “His crime has clearly had a devastating impact on the victim, who sadly is no longer with us.
“I hope this case encourages more victims who may be suffering alone to come forward.”