Frantic dad tells court how he drove hundreds of miles searching for daughter 'groomed on internet' (From The Northern Echo)
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Frantic dad tells court how he drove hundreds of miles searching for daughter 'groomed on internet'
A DAD has told how he drove hundreds of miles looking for his missing daughter before she was found with a man said to have groomed her on the internet.
The father said he was frantic with worry after learning that the usually sensible schoolgirl had not turned up at a friend's home for a sleep-over.
The 14-year-old had earlier skipped school, bought a tent and condoms and took a train to the North-East where she was picked up by Sean Clode.
Mr Clode, 21, is alleged to have spent months grooming the girl before persuading her to travel from her home in northern Scotland to meet him for sex.
The pair were found after a cross-border police search involving a helicopter and the girl's father who travelled through the night to look for her.
He told a jury that he first drove to Edinburgh after his daughter's friends said that is where they believed she had gone after missing classes.
Her mobile phone was traced to the Hartlepool area, so the dad-of-three said he continued his journey south not knowing if she was dead or alive.
"I was becoming increasingly concerned and anxious," he said in a statement which was read to the court yesterday. "I was beside myself with worry."
The frantic father told how he arrived at first light and spent a hour walking around the docks and picnic areas before going to the police station.
He said he visited the train station several times, walked sections of the coastline, knocked on doors and asked postmen and passers-by for help.
He was asked to return to the police station where a senior officer told him the case was being treated as "a critical incident", the court heard.
"Eventually I was told the police helicopter located somebody they believed was [girl's name] and it was confirmed a short time later," the statement said.
"I cannot express how much of a relief this was, as I was becoming increasingly concerned that I would not see [girl's name] alive again.
"The whole experience has been traumatic for me and my family. No words can describe how upsetting it has been for me and my family."
Mr Clode, of Glamis Walk, Hartlepool, is alleged to have plotted with the girl to meet during conversations they had through an internet game.
He denies charges of meeting a child after sexual grooming, child abduction and two counts of sexual activity with a child.
The trial continues.