Ex-footballer posed as bisexual teenage girl to target Sunderland children online

Craig Nelson
Craig Nelson
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A FORMER footballer has been put behind bars after posing as a female teen to target underage Sunderland girls on the internet.

Craig Nelson, who had once been training as a teacher, was already on a suspended prison sentence after claiming to be 15-year-old bisexual “Jessie J” when he set up his latest fake profile in a bid to view illegal pictures of children.

Just months after being given the chance to keep his freedom, the 32-year-old – who once represented Middlesbrough and scored against Manchester United’s juniors at Old Trafford – set up a profile on Tagged.com, calling himself 15-year-old ‘Laura’.

The married dad, whose previous clubs include Northern League outfit Jarrow Roofing, then tried to convince a 12-year-old user to send him indecent photographs of herself.

He was collared when the messages were reported to the police, but the 12-year-old schoolgirl he contacted in Sunderland has never been traced.

When detectives looked at his mobile phone, they found he had deleted 94 of his internet searches, which was banned by the terms of the sexual offences prevention order he was given along with the suspended prison sentence in July 2012.

The fake Tagged.com profile was found when police searched his computer at his wife’s home last January.

Nelson admitted two breaches of the SOPO. At Newcastle Crown Court yesterday, Mr Recorder Camp sentenced Nelson to two years behind bars.

The judge said: “Those who refuse to follow court orders need to be discouraged.”

Nelson was ordered to sign the sex offenders register for 10 years.

The court heard Nelson had otherwise done well on the community programme he was given and his hopes of a reconciliation with his wife have now been completely dashed.

In 2012 the court heard Nelson, of West Cornforth, County Durham, used bogus identities, including ‘Jessie J’ to try to persuade his virtual ‘friends’ across Wearside to send him naked photographs of themselves.

In exchange he sent them explicit pictures of a teenage girl, who he claimed to be.

When one girl agreed to his indecent request, but refused to keep posing for pictures to him, Nelson threatened he would post the photos he had of her on to the internet.

When the frightened youngster informed her mother of her plight, the police became involved and the full scale of Nelson’s deception was exposed.