Man jailed after lying to police about relationship with underage girl he met playing Xbox game Fortnite
A man who started seeing an underage girl he befriended while playing Xbox game Fortnite has been jailed for derailing a police investigation into their relationship.
David Wood was arrested after girl, who he met while playing Fortnite, confessed to her mother that they had had sex.
Newcastle Crown Court heard Wood was questioned by police on suspicion of grooming but the case was later dropped due to insufficient evidence, after the teen refused to make a statement against him.
The court heard the girl's mother has "expressed fear her daughter was actually prepared to run away with Mr Wood" if she hadn't intervened.
Prosecutor David Comb told the court just three days after Wood was detained for questioning, the 36-year-old had sent a series of messages to the teen in a bid to get her to stay quiet.
Mr Comb said the girl's worried mother saw the messages on the girl's computer and took photographs, which she gave to the police.
Wood, formerly of Dunstanburgh Close, Oxclose, Washington, admitted perverting the course of justice and has now been jailed for 15 months, with a lifelong restraining order to keep him away from the girl.
Mr Recorder Alistair MacDonald QC told Wood: "You formed a relationship with a girl.
"That relationship began when you were introduced to her when using the internet, playing a game.
"The relationship developed from then on and the girl's mother contacted the police with her concerns about her daughter being in a relationship with a much older man."
The judge said the girl initially "lied repeatedly" to her mother before Wood was arrested.
In the messages he sent to the teen after he was released, Wood asked if the girl, who said she may have to chose between him and her mother, still "wanted" him and told her "you could drop the case".
Recorder MacDonald told Wood: "You told her she could drop the case and you persisted with those messages for a short time, all in one day, seeking to dissuade her, effectively, from giving evidence.
"It is accepted there were no threats involved but because of the imbalance of power in your relationship it is perfectly clear threats were not necessary."
Mr Comb told the court the girl would not be formally interviewed or make any official statement to the police about her relationship with Wood.
He told the court: "The original investigation was into offences of child grooming was that the mother contacted the police after her daughter admitted to her that she was having a sexual relationship with Mr Wood.
"She had been introduced to Mr Wood when she was playing on Xbox online, Fortnite, in a group of players which contained this defendant.
"In terms of assessing the impact of this, because the daughter has refused to provide an interview, it is not possible to establish whether her lack of co-operation is a direct consequence of this offending or simply a by-product of her more general manipulation by the defendant in the weeks and months that preceded it."
Alec Burns, defending, said Wood had a problem with alcohol at the time but has been through a detox procedure while in custody on remand and has completed qualifications in maths and English.