A FOOTBALL club announcer who lost his job after he was arrested over child sex offences has denied paying money to underage children, a jury has heard.

Mark Page had worked for 25 years at the match day announcer for his hometown club Middlesbrough FC until police raided his home in January 2020.

Jurors heard the defendant say he was not responsible for the sexually explicit messages and believed his computer and online accounts had been hacked.

The 63-year-old told Teesside Crown Court that he was a frequent visitor to the Far East including numerous trips to the Philippines as part of his business operation providing radio services to the Armed Forces.

The jury had heard how records from Western Union showed how Page made 164 payments to individuals in the Far East, including Thailand and Philippines, over a number of years.

He is facing five charges of arranging or facilitating the commission of a child sex offence between August 2016, and April 2019.

Giving evidence, Page said there were several transactions where he didn’t recognise the name of the person receiving the money and had no recollection of transferring the money.

He said he made regular payments to girlfriends he met using an online dating site, Filipino Cupid, including a 25-year-old nurse, who lived with him for around a year until August 2015.

Trevor Burke QC, defence counsel, asked Page about payments to the account of a woman using the name of Lovely.Zamora7 and his online conversation with that person.

Page replied: “They didn’t come from me and not with my knowledge.”

Mr Burke asked his client if he remembered searching online ‘the age of consent’ in the Philippines.

He replied: “I was speaking to a lady about her history and mine and she told me her age when she lost her virginity. I remember looking online to see what the relevance was.”

The court heard how police forensic specialists had recovered 12 years’ worth of Google data from Page’s computer systems.

Mr Burke asked Page about a text message conversation made during one of his trips to the Philippines in October 2016.

“I really don’t know,” he replied. “That is not me. Those are not my words.”

Earlier in the trial, Jo Kidd, prosecuting, said forensic analysis of his internet history recovered details of numerous online conversations Page had made with the underage girl and revealed details of payments made using his credit card to accounts in the Far East.

The jury heard how Page was in the Philippines in October 2016 and sent a number of text messages arranging to meet up with the young girl for sex.

In a series of explicit messages before his arrival and after he stayed at a hotel in the Makati area, Page is alleged to have asked the girl to arrange for him to have sex with a 12-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy.

Ms Kidd said payments made from Page’s credit card showed the cash had been sent to an account based in the Philippines.

Page, of Snowdrop Close, Stockton, denies the charges.

The trial continues.

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