Catterick Garrison paedophile jailed after being snared by online vigilantes

Simon Lewis.

A 66-year-old Catterick Garrison man has been jailed for trying to lure young ‘girls’ into sex during online chats after being snared by vigilantes.

Military veteran Simon Lewis thought he was grooming two under-age girls but was in fact speaking to an adult decoy and a police officer posing as youngsters, Teesside Crown Court heard.

Lewis, who served the Army for more than 20 years, offered to buy a phone and make-up for one of the ‘girls’ and going to Tesco to buy fishnet stockings, thongs and a dress for the other child.

Prosecutor Nigel Soppitt said police were contacted by a member of an online vigilante group which hunt paedophiles on the internet.

The vigilante told police that Lewis had been having depraved chats with an adult decoy masquerading as a 12-year-old girl.

Mr Soppitt said the conversations between Lewis and the decoy quickly became sexual and the ex-soldier gave her his address and telephone number.

Lewis, whose online username was ‘Big Boy’, urged the decoy to perform a lewd act on herself and told her he would buy her a phone “so they could call and message each other” on Whatsapp.

“He asked for her address so he could send her money and soiled underwear,” added Mr Soppitt.

Police later found an envelope at Lewis’s home with £40 cash and his underwear inside, along with a letter in which he encouraged the ‘girl’ to keep performing sexual acts on herself and told her: “I know you love it.”

He also told her to perform lewd acts on herself on the school bus, adding: “Don’t let anyone see you. I shall wait to hear from you sweetheart xx.”

Lewis, a father-of-two who retired from the Army in 2003, was arrested in March last year when police found the items at his home.

He made full admissions to what he had done and was given bail pending further enquiries. However, in May this year he messaged a woman who turned out to be another adult decoy pretending to be a mother who was having a sexual relationship with her own 13-year-old daughter.

The ‘mother’ told Lewis she would arrange for him to meet her daughter for sexual purposes.

During the warped chats, Lewis told the decoy he wanted to meet her daughter for “some special loving together”.

The prosecution said this inferred that Lewis wanted to have full sexual intercourse with the girl.

Mr Soppitt said that although the ‘girl’ clearly expressed her reluctance to Lewis, the disgraced former army man tried to assuage her fears by saying: “I’ll be gentle with you.”

“He bought for this young girl thongs, fishnet tights and a dress,” added the prosecutor.

“He is seen (on CCTV) going to Tesco to buy these items.”

However, it appeared that Lewis then got cold feet about meeting the girl and messaged the ‘mother’ saying he wasn’t going to meet her because he was “too old” and was “nervous about meeting (them)”.

In fact, as Lewis later admitted to a probation officer, he had ducked out of the arranged meeting because he feared he was sexually inadequate and wouldn’t be able to “perform”.

He was arrested again on May 23 while still on bail for the previous matter and his electronic devices were seized.

He admitted attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child and attempting to meet a girl following grooming with the intention of committing a sexual act.

He appeared for sentence at court on Thursday after being remanded in custody.

The court heard that Lewis admitted to a probation officer that if he had met the girls he would have “taken away their childhood against their will”.

He said that if it hadn’t been for his sexual disfunction he would have met the second ‘girl’ for full sex.

The officer’s report concluded that Lewis had shown no remorse and didn’t really understand the seriousness of his offences.

Lewis admitted that he had “put feelers out (online) to meet daughters for sex, aged 12 ideally”.

Defence barrister Richard Herrmann said that Lewis, of Field Grove, had a “long and distinguished military career for 24 years”, retiring with full honours in 2003.

His marriage subsequently deteriorated and he and his wife separated about three years ago.

Mr Herrmann said a combination of Lewis’s retirement and the breakdown of his marriage had had a huge toll on his mental health, which led to depression, isolation and boredom.

“It was that boredom that led him into the dark (recesses) of the internet,” he added.

“Since retirement and the breakdown of his marriage, he says he’s just sitting waiting to die.”

Recorder Aisha Wadoodi said it was clear from the sordid messages and Lewis’s grooming techniques that he wanted to have sex with one of the ‘girls’ and would have gone through with it were it not for his purported sexual inadequacies.

Lewis was jailed for 18 months and ordered to sign on the sex-offenders’ register for ten years.

He was also given a ten-year sexual-harm prevention order to curb his internet activities.