Man accused of having explicit on-line chats with ‘paedophile-hunting group pretending to be 13-year-old girls’ is to be quizzed by police over new allegations

ColeraineCourt9 - Edited

POLICE intend to interview a Coleraine man accused of having sexually explicit online chats with a so-called paedophile hunting group in England who were posing as 13-year-old girls, about a similar matter, a court heard on Monday.

Harold Burke (58), of Quilly Road, had a bail application refused at the town’s Coleraine Magistrates Court.

The defendant has been on remand in prison and was due to appear via video link but was unable to do because of technical difficulties.

The bail application proceeded in his absence.

A PSNI officer objected to bail and said that in July this year police were contacted by a group called Decoy Central which he said was a “so-called paedophile hunting group” based in England.

The officer said the group alleged they had been in contact with Burke who had online conversations with their members who were pretending to be 13-year-old girls.

The officer said the alleged conversations involving Burke were of a “very extreme sexual nature”.

The policeman said officers arrested Burke and items seized included computers.

He said Burke made a ‘no comment’ interview and showed “no sign of remorse” for his alleged actions and was subsequently charged and remanded in custody.

Burke is charged with two counts of attempted sexual communication with a child and two of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.

He is also accused of possessing 370 rounds of .22 ammunition in suspicious circumstances.

In August, the High Court in Belfast was told Burke allegedly exchanged more than 100 messages and offered to meet one of the “decoys”.

When police arrested the accused and carried out searches at his home ammunition was discovered in a utility room safe, the court was told.

At Coleraine Court on Monday, the police officer said “more evidence” has now come to light from a group similar to ‘Decoy Central’, this time based in Dublin.

He said information was received from the group in recent days on the back of publicity in the case.

The policeman said being remanded in custody, where he has been since August, was also “very important” for the defendant’s own safety as he is “very well-known” in Coleraine and Limavady.

Defence barrister Aaron Thompson said the court in August was told a full file in the case was expected in four to six weeks but “that undertaking has not been met”.

District Judge Liam McNally said the police now had new information and want to interview Burke and he refused the bail application.

The defendant was remanded in continuing custody until November 19.

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