Paedophile Hunter’s ‘sting’ on Preston men

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Two men have been arrested in Preston after allegations by self-styled “paedophile hunter” Stinson Hunter.

Twenty-seven-year-old church volunteer Jonathan Rowland and 50-year-old Andy Helmen, both from Preston, were arrested last week, each on suspicion of attempting to meet underage girls.

Both men were reported to police by online vigilante Stinson Hunter, who rose to prominence last year in a TV documentary in which he revealed how he trawled the internet posing as under-age boys and girls in order to catch suspected paedophiles.

The latest arrests come after videos and text messages were uploaded to social media sites by controversial Hunter, who was posing as a 13-year-old girl during the ‘stings’. Mr Rowland, of Ingol, admitted to an Evening Post reporter that he was the man in the video filmed outside the Odeon Cinema on Preston Docks.

He said he was there because he was resting from cycling the Guild Wheel - not to meet an underage girl for sex.

Yesterday he admitted he was responsible for the text messages under the name of Mark featured on Hunter’s site, but said his account on the social media site Lovoo was hacked and that’s when the lewd messages began.

The messages which are freely available online, are sexually suggestive both on Lovoo and via text message.

Mr Rowland, who is responsible for computing and music at a weekly youth club at Tanterton Christan Centre, said: “Since I got arrested I haven’t been out of the house. I’m worried because photographs and videos are online and I might get attacked.

“But Lancashire police say they will not ask him (Stinson Hunter) to take the online posts down. I don’t feel like I’ve had any opportunity to put my side forward and I feel like a prisoner in my own home. I can’t even go out on my bike to get things I need to care for my mum.”

Mr Rowland said he had been banned from attending Tanterton Christian Centre while police investigate the claims.

He said: “The church have told me not to go, and it’s hard because I really wanted to go on Sunday because it was a healing service.”

Nobody at Tanterton Christian Centre was available when contacted by the Evening Post yesterday.

Mr Rowland said that when he was arrested, police took his iPad, Playstation 4, laptop and mobile and said he isn’t allowed on the internet at all as a condition of his bail.

50-year-old Andy Helman, from Preston, was also arrested last following another allegation by Hunter.

In text messages allegedly sent to Hunter, again posing as a 13-year-old girl, the 50-year-old tells the girl he wants to have sex with her and claims to have dated a 12-year-old girl last year.

Mr Hunter believes he became suspicious he was part of a sting and stopped communication before a meeting could take place.

A police spokesman said: “On Sunday, February 1 a 50-year-old man from Preston was arrested on suspicion of attempting to meet a girl under 16 following grooming and has been bailed until July, 13, 2015. On Thursday, February 5 a 27-year-old man from Preston was arrested on suspicion of attempting to meet a girl under 16 following grooming and has been bailed until April 8, 2015. These arrests were the result of allegations made by a member of the public. In all cases the priority for Lancashire Police is the safeguarding of all persons involved and the thorough and ethical investigation of allegations of criminal behaviour.”

Stinson Hunter told the Evening Post: “I’m pleased the police have followed both of these stings up, it’s important that they do and take it seriously, because if they ignore it they become part of the problem.”

He added: “My whole purpose is not to stitch the police up or embarrass them, though I am doing. My intention has always been to to highlight an issue and I’m getting the police and the courts to do the work. But in the four months since the Paedophile Hunter was on TV, the Government has done nothing.”

He added: “The Government are trying to find ways to shut me up, they want to keep me out of the papers, but my profile is being raised even more.”

Mr Hunter was warned by police last year that he could be breaking the law. West Midlands Police warned him about his “vigilantism” in March, after an arrest was made as a result of another video posted online. The force said he could disrupt criminal investigations and compromise the safety of victims.

But Mr Hunter denied he was encouraging vigilantism and said he wanted to expose the need for more protection for children online.

Yesterday he said: “All I do is report a crime to the police, but I put it online for public awareness.”

Read our original report about Stinson Hunter’s Lancashire operation here