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Man "spent months grooming schoolgirl for sex", court told
A MAN spent months grooming a schoolgirl on the internet before persuading her to travel hundreds of miles to meet him for sex, a court heard.
Sean Clode took the 14-year-old to secluded sand dunes on the outskirts of Hartlepool and spent the night with her in a tent, a jury was told.
The pair were found after a cross-border police search involving a helicopter and the girl's father who travelled from northern Scotland to look for her.
The girl skipped school and took a train south after buying a tent and condoms and was picked up at Hartlepool train station, Teesside Crown Court heard.
Prosecutor Matthew Bean told the jury today (Tuesday, September 24) that 21-year-old Mr Clode had hatched a plan with the youngster to meet in late-May this year.
After his arrest, he claimed the first he knew of the trip was when the girl rang him from the railway station, and denied having sex with her.
In his opening, Mr Bean told the court that the pair had communicated almost every day for nine months after meeting through an on-line Xbox Live game.
"The prosecution say that she told Sean Clode her age," he said. "The prosecution say they also began discussing the possibility of meeting up.
"They continued to have conversations in the months leading up to May during which she told the defendant she loved him and he told her the same.
"The prosecution say you can find that the defendant manipulated [the girl] into believing she was in a relationship with him and that he cared for her."
Mr Bean added: "Over the many hours he was with her, he must have been aware that her parents would have discovered their daughter was missing.
"He must have been aware that they must have been deeply worried if not terrified for their daughter. He made no attempt to tell anyone where she was.
"The prosecution say you can find one reason he told no-one and took her to the dunes - he was intending to engage in sexual activity with her."
In her evidence - given via a video-link - the girl supported Mr Clode's account that he knew nothing about her travel plans, and that they never had sex.
She insisted that she lied in her first police interview about what had happened, and said she ran away from home because she was having problems.
Mr Clode, of Glamis Walk, Hartlepool, denies meeting a child after sexual grooming, child abduction and two charges of sexual activity with a child.
The case continues.