Police searched more than 20,000 messages on Lee Heathcock’s phone and uncovered more than 400 conversations with different children.
A 34-year-old man posed as a schoolboy on social messaging sites in order to chat up young girls and talk them into sending indecent photographs.
Lee Heathcock exchanged Blackberry Messenger posts with children as young as 11, talked about his school, used an image of a teenage boy as his profile picture, and adopted text speak acronyms to convince victims they were in touch with a child.
But once Heathcock, a prolific Dudley criminal, felt he’d struck up a relationship he quickly engaged in sexually explicit conversations, sent indecent images and urged his targets to reciprocate.
Officers from West Midlands Police’s Public Protection Unit painstakingly searched more than 20,000 messages on his phone and uncovered 400-plus conversations with different children.
They found evidence of him exchanging sexually explicit images and chat with several youngsters, including five girls aged 12 and one just 11, living across the UK and abroad.
Heathcock, now 36, admitted a total of 11 charges – including inciting children to engage in sexual activity and pornography, plus possessing indecent images – and asked for a further six offences to be taken into consideration.
At Wolverhampton Crown Court on Wednesday (April 10) he was jailed for 18 months, placed on the Sex Offender’s Register for 10 years and banned from ever working with children.
Detective sergeant Emily Crump,said: “It was a very detailed case – our team analysed Heathcock’s phone and used BlackBerry PIN numbers to trace victims across the country.
“He duped children into believing they were communicating with a child of a similar age…he displayed a profile picture of a teenage boy and used age-appropriate language to support his deception.
“I’d urge parents to be vigilant and actively monitor their children’s internet and mobile phone use across all social media channels. They shouldn’t feel awkward asking what they’re up to and who they’re conversing with on social media because they’re only trying to protect them.
“Perhaps have an agreement that they only use the internet in an overt manner, in the living room, rather than squirreled away in their bedrooms.”
Convicted burglar Heathcock, of no fixed address, was wanted on a prison recall in October 2011 and arrested by an alert off-duty police officer on a petrol station forecourt.
During a search of his car officers found two mobile phones which, upon examination, revealed concerning message exchanges between July and September 2011 and sexually explicit photos of children. Most of Heathcock’s victims were girls aged between 11- and 15-years-old.
He initially claimed the phones belonged to someone else but police rubbished his defence after discovering the person Heathcock suggested as a suspect was in fact dead. He eventually admitted all the offences.
the Birmingham Mail