David Wood, 37, groomed the 14-year-old schoolgirl after initially befriending her while playing online video game Fortnite
A relieved mum has thanked detectives after the online predator who “stole her daughter’s childhood” was convicted.
David Wood, 37, groomed the 14-year-old schoolgirl after initially befriending her while playing online video game Fortnite.
Officers’ initial attempts to bring him to justice were thwarted in November last year as the case was dropped in court due to insufficient evidence, and the victim unwilling to support a prosecution.
But police did unearth a series of messages that Wood, of Washington, had sent to the girl urging her to keep quiet about their relationship. He was subsequently jailed for 16 months for perverting the course of justice.
Two months on, detectives have successfully convicted Wood of his crimes after he admitted two counts of sexual activity with a child and taking indecent photographs of a child at a Newcastle Crown Court hearing last month.
Now, with Wood set for a significant spell behind bars, the girl’s mum has heaped praise on investigators who worked tirelessly to ensure he answered for his crimes.
“It makes me sick to my stomach what he has done,” she said. “My daughter is still a child – my child – and this man has stolen her childhood after grooming her online.
“She should have been out playing with friends, having a laugh and a joke, when in fact she has been preyed on by a man who is more than 20 years older than her.
“He manipulated my daughter - it is disgusting. She claimed she was head over heels in love with him but that is what he made her feel. The control that he had over her, sending her texts urging her to keep quiet, meant she would not talk to police.
“I’m now incredibly relieved and thankful that David Wood is behind bars, and would like to thank police who have worked incredibly hard – against the odds – to ensure he has been rightly convicted of his crimes.
“He deserves to be in jail for a long time for the unforgivable things he has done to my daughter and I can sleep easier knowing he is locked up, unable to prey on other vulnerable girls and cause such pain and heartache to their families.”
After the pair initially met online when playing video game Fortnite on Xbox in October 2018, the girl became infatuated with Wood and was regularly invited to his Washington home where the pair engaged in sexual activity.
Months later, when the girl confessed to her mum that she had been involved with a sexual relationship with an older man that she had met online, Wood was questioned by police – but sent a series of messages to his victim urging her to stay quiet.
In November 2019, Wood was jailed for perverting the course of justice – but the sexual offence charges brought against him at Newcastle Crown Court were dropped due to insufficient evidence, with the girl refusing to give statements or provide evidence.
However, detectives did not let that lie – instead showing great tenacity and determination to pull together another criminal case which resulted in Wood being charged with two counts of having sexual activity with a child and one count of taking indecent photographs of a child.
With the weight of evidence against him overwhelming, Wood, of Waterloo Walk, Sulgrave, admitted all three offences on January 16 this year at Newcastle Crown Court. He is due to be sentenced on a date to be confirmed.
The girl’s mother added: “I hope this case helps make other parents aware of the potential dangers of the internet – this could so easily happen to other children who come into contact with manipulative adults online.
“I’m incredibly grateful to Northumbria Police for their investigation, especially to Detective Constable Catherine Gibson who has been a huge support to me throughout the investigation.
“I now hope my daughter can start to live her life again with Wood behind bars, but I know the damage he has caused her and our family is irreparable. Life will never be the same again.”
Detective Constable Catherine Gibson, who led the investigation, praised the girl's mother and said the case highlighted the need for all parents to be aware of the potential dangers of the internet.
“This was a difficult and complex investigation that has lasted nearly a year and involved a vulnerable victim who was seduced and manipulated by a much older man,” Det Con Gibson said.
“As a result, we had to rely on our investigative skills without the support of the victim to ensure Wood had his day in court – and that involved following a huge technology trail to map out their relationship, from reading thousands of texts and emails to studying geographical data.
"The victim's mother provided us with key evidence that she discovered after checking devices that her daughter had access to, and this proved instrumental in securing the convictions against Wood. I'd like to thank her for her cooperation and assistance throughout.
“There is little doubt that Wood is a manipulative and calculated man who used this young, impressionable girl for purely selfish gains. When his illicit behaviour started to come to light, he then did everything in his power to try to control his victim and escape punishment.
“As a Force, we have specialist teams who work hard to educate children, parents and teachers about the potential dangers of the internet and how best to ensure young people are safeguarded. That work has never been more important.”