A PROMISING woman footballer who tricked young girls into sexual acts by dressing as a teenage boy was jailed for more than nine years today.

Chantelle Johnson, who was on the books of Middlesbrough FC Ladies, created the online persona of 13-year-old Drew and convinced the youngsters that he was besotted with them.

Johnson, 19, turned the online chat to sexual matters and arranged to meet with the girls, where she wore boyish clothes, no make-up and pulled a hoody tightly around her head to reveal only her face.

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Late last year she kissed and intimately touched one of her three victims, while dressed in her guise of Drew, Teesside Crown Court was told.

Prosecutor Paul Cleasby said: "The girl believed she was in a relationship with a male called Drew who told her he was 13 years old. The contact had started via Instagram with the defendant messaging the girl giving her compliments on how she looked.

"Due to this flattery, the girl began communicating with the character Drew on a daily basis and within a few days Drew tells her that he wants to be in a relationship with her.

"Having lured the child into the early stages of a relationship the defendant began turning the conversation to matters of a sexual nature.

fter persistent grooming, the girl agreed to meet "Drew" and on each occasion Johnson wore a hood to disguise her long hair.

Mr Cleasby said: "She did meet with the person she believed to be Drew on a number of occasions.

"They would kiss intimately on the lips and on one occasion the defendant put her hands down the girl's trousers and touched her."

Johnson, from Middlesbrough, convinced another girl of 12 to send pictures of herself in her underwear to him by posing as a second boy called Nathan.

The third victim was 12 at the time she was contacted online by "Drew" late in 2015.

Mr Cleasby said Johnson flattered her and arranged for a date, and added: "The girl would be excited about the prospect of a date and would spend time doing her make-up and hair and selecting clothes."

However, on these occasions, Drew would not turn up and Johnson made herself available to the heartbroken girl as a shoulder to cry on.

Mr Cleasby said: "This was a sophisticated grooming process employed by the defendant to get closer to the girl."

Having gained her trust using Drew as bait, Johnson went on to abuse the girl between December 2015 and June 2016.

Johnson backed up her false male personas with a host of other characters, posing online as Drew's father and other family members.

In one elaborate hoax, an attempt to gain sympathy and trust from two of her victims, she said Drew's younger sister Ellie Mae, aged eight, had died and even wore black clothes when she met them, claiming to have been at her funeral.

Johnson admitted three charges of meeting a child following sexual grooming, two of sexual assault, five of causing a child to engage in sexual activity, causing child pornography and perverting the course of justice.

Michele Turner, mitigating, said Johnson had been through family upheaval from the age of eight when she was "passed from pillar to post".

Miss Turner said: "She accepts the majority of the prosecution case. She is socially isolated, exceptionally immature and is vulnerable in her own right."

Jailing Johnson for nine years and four months, Judge Howard Crowson said: "I consider this was deliberate, well-planned, targeted abuse of young girls.

"The case reveals a clear ability to manipulate and construct plausible lies which deceived the girls.

Johnson will have to sign on the sex offenders' register for life, and was also made the subject of a lifetime Sexual Harm Prevention Order.

The order bans Johnson from working with children and having unsupervised contact with under-16s, and restricts her use of the internet.

The judge said: "It is necessary to protect the public, and in particular young children, usually girls it would seem, from you.

"It is unusual only because you are female. By far the majority of this type of offending is by male defendants.

"It concerns me that it may be a repeated matter. It is something that needs to be considered on your release."

Detective Constable Michelle Roxby, of Cleveland Police’s Vulnerable, Exploited, Missing and Trafficked Team, said afterwards: “I am delighted with the sentence that the judge has passed today and hope it acts as a warning to others intent on exploiting and manipulating children online, that they will be dealt with robustly.

“In this particular case, Johnson went on to form physical relationships in which she spun a web of lies and deceit, giving her the opportunity to commit sexual offences. 

“Her arrest, and now lengthy prison sentence has prevented her from targeting further victims, but I hope that it also gives reassurance to other victims of sexual exploitation that offenders will be brought to justice and would encourage them to come forward and speak to us.

“If you would like to report any suspicious activity, please call 101 or visit https://ceop.police.uk, where you can find advice on how to stay safe online.”