Predator who used Fortnite to groom teenager he had sexual relationship with is jailed

An online predator who used the video game Fortnite to start a sexual relationship with a schoolgirl has been convicted.

Friday, 31st January 2020, 11:39 am
Updated Sunday, 2nd February 2020, 5:50 pm
David Wood, 37, groomed his 14-year-old victim after initially befriending her while playing the popular online game on Xbox.

David Wood, 37, groomed his 14-year-old victim after befriending her while playing the online game on Xbox.

The girl soon became “infatuated” with Wood and was regularly invited around to his Washington home, where the pair engaged in sexual activity.

After the girl confessed the sexual relationship to her mother, Wood was questioned by police. He sent a series of messages to his victim, trying to get her to stay quiet.

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He was jailed in 2019 after pleading guilty to perverting the course of justice. But police looked to bring further convictions. Detectives found and compiled thousands of texts, online messages and geographical data.

In January 2020, Wood, of Waterloo Walk, Sulgrave, further pleaded guilty at Newcastle Crown Court to two counts of sexual activity with a child, and taking indecent photographs of a child.

He has been remanded in custody and is due to be sentenced on a date to be confirmed.

Detective Constable Catherine Gibson, of Northumbria Police, said: “This is a disturbing case which saw an online predator earn the trust of an under-age schoolgirl after being introduced while playing a well-known video game via the internet.

“This relationship then developed into a sexual one, and as she became increasingly infatuated with the older man, the victim would regularly visit Wood at his home address after school.

“Last year, Wood was convicted after repeatedly sending the girl messages seeking to dissuade her from giving evidence during an initial trial for child grooming offences, which was subsequently dropped. His influence over her was both clear and significant.

“As a result, we were tasked with securing a compelling evidential case without the support of the victim herself; and I am now pleased that justice has been served as the extent of his harmful and unlawful actions in targeting a vulnerable young girl is recognised.

“There can be little doubt that Wood knowingly and willingly manipulated his victim for purely selfish gains, and when his illicit behaviour became apparent, he did everything possible in order to control the girl and escape punishment.

“This case outlines the Force’s fierce commitment to ensuring sexual predators who target vulnerable individuals online are rightfully brought to justice.

“We will continue to work hard to educate children, parents and teachers about the potential dangers of the internet, and we would always advise adults to be aware of what their children are doing online. If they see something suspicious, please report it to police.”

On November 8 last year, after he admitted messaging his victim to dissuade her from giving evidence against him, Wood was jailed for 16 months and handed a lifelong restraining order banning him from contacting his victim.

The original investigation into child grooming offences was dropped after the girl would not be formally interviewed or give any statement to police.

However, detectives pressed ahead and further charged Wood with sexual activity with a child and taking indecent photographs of a child.