A MAN has admitted sexually abusing a schoolgirl just months before she was found dead.
Kevin Palmer was caught by a police officer committing offences in a tent in Sunderland with underage Danielle Formosa, who was just 13, last June.
In December, the vulnerable youngster, who had by then turned 14, was found dead in a children’s home.
Palmer, 40, was originally accused of raping the schoolgirl and appeared at Newcastle Crown Court yesterday for trial.
Prosecutors made a special application for Danielle’s video statement to be played to jurors.
Palmer’s defence team objected on the basis he could not have a fair trial if the footage was allowed to be used as evidence. After hearing legal argument from both sides, Judge Penny Moreland ruled Danielle’s video statement should be heard in court.
But before a jury was sworn to hear the case, Palmer pleaded guilty to engaging in sexual activity in the presence of Danielle and causing or inciting her to engage in sexual activity.
The maximum penalty he faces is 14 years behind bars.
Prosecutor Robert Woodcock QC told the court: “There are aggravating features to each of the offences.
“She was not just 13 years of age but must have been known to the defendant as a vulnerable child.”
As a result of the guilty pleas, prosecutors dropped the more serious rape charge. Prosecutor Robert Woodcock QC said he had explained the process to Danielle’s grieving family, who accepted the decision “with dignity but some degree of resignation”.
Palmer, of no fixed address in Sunderland, will be sentenced on June 6.
Judge Moreland remanded him in custody in the meantime and warned: “This case will inevitably lead to an immediate custodial sentence.”
Danielle, from Sunderland, was found dead at East Farmhouse home in County Durham last December.
The former St Anthony’s Catholic Girls’ Academy pupil was just 14 when she died.
A serious case review in relation to her death and that of another 14-year-old, who she was friends with on Facebook, who also died in care just weeks earlier.