herald

Wednesday 20 June 2018

'I was afraid he was going to come and get me' - victim of paedo

Matthew Horan used social media apps including Instagram, Kik and Snapchat to target young girls
Matthew Horan used social media apps including Instagram, Kik and Snapchat to target young girls

A paedophile who sexually exploited girls as young as nine and distributed thousands of child porn images has been jailed for seven-and-a-half years.

Matthew Horan (26) admitted to coercing the young children into sending him sexually graphic images and was described as an "inadequate" individual by the presiding judge.

He used social media apps including Instagram, Kik and Snapchat to target the young girls, as well as to communicate with other depraved individuals.

His imprisonment comes as the Herald can reveal fears he may have had other victims.

Gardai are expected to bring further charges after detectives recently uncovered more material during a search of Horan's home.

The property, in St John's estate, Clondalkin, was searched three times as part of the lengthy garda investigation and led to the recovery of thousands of child porn images.

ATTACKED

It is understood the new evidence had not yet reached gardai by the time Horan's case was brought before the courts, but officers are expected to prefer further charges.

It also emerged Horan's home in west Dublin was attacked on Monday night after his sordid crimes were detailed in court.

Defence counsel for the paedophile said a window and front door of the home were smashed by "persons unknown". The house belongs to Horan's father, who had no involvement in his son's crimes.

Detectives were so concerned that Horan would continue to prey on vulnerable girls after being charged that officers presented a wealth of evidence at his bail hearing to ensure he was off the streets.

Det Superintendant Declan Daly speaking outside court
Det Superintendant Declan Daly speaking outside court

The paedophile has been in custody since last June when his bail was revoked, and his prison term was backdated to that date.

Judge Martin Nolan sentenced Horan to nine-and-a-half years in prison, and suspended the last two years on condition he abides by a number of post-release terms.

Nine of the young children targeted by Horan are based in Ireland, while a further six were living abroad, including in the US.

A spokeswoman for the FBI said they could not comment when queried if they were carrying out investigations into Horan.

One of Horan's victims described how she was terrified the sex offender would "go after" her after finding out where she lived.

"I want to prevent this happening to anyone else. I thought chatting to strangers online was safe. It was like making a new friend. It didn't make me feel good. It made me feel ashamed, alone and mostly scared. I'm still sad, angry and disappointed in myself," she said.

She added she did not really want to go to court but she would if it helped anyone else.

"I felt scared because I told him where I lived and I was afraid he was going to come and get me," the victim impact statement read out in court said.

GRAPHIC

A forensic examination of Horan's computer uncovered recorded Skype calls between him and two nine year-old-girls, both individually and together. The recordings included footage of these girls engaging in graphic sexual acts.

Horan also took part in sexually explicit text conversations with the girls, during which there would be an exchange of photos.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard Horan would use Kik to share child porn images and videos with unidentified users from around the world, most of whom claimed to be young teenagers.

He threatened to share an 11-year-old girl's nude images to her social media if she didn't send him more graphic photos.

In the text exchange between them, this little girl repeatedly told Horan she would kill herself. He then continued to coerce her to send more images, the court heard.

All the offences occurred between April 1, 2014, and July 2016. Judge Nolan said Horan had a very unhealthy, insidious and debased sexual interest in children.

He said the crimes were all committed for Horan's indulgence and pleasure and the 26-year-old had exploited children in a most horrible way.

He said Horan's actions would have long-term effects on the victims.

He noted a medical report which stated that child porn became Horan's autistic fixated interest. This interest serves as a source of pleasure and relaxation for those on the autistic spectrum.

"He knew what he was doing was wrong," Judge Nolan said. "He understood the damage and yet he didn't stop what he was doing."

Judge Nolan also ordered a report from the Probation Service into what interventions and services the Prison Service could provide to reform Horan.

"If there are such interventions, he has to partake of those meaningfully. It is important for society and him that he is given certain interventions that will change him," he said.

Det Supt Declan Daly, of the Garda Protective Services Bureau, said that Horan's acts served as a "timely reminder" of the dangers the internet poses to young children.

On Monday, Detective Garda David Connolly gave evidence that the parents of the then nine-year-old girls from the Skype recordings expressed their "absolute shock" when they found out about the exchanges with Horan.

They said they "felt sick to the pit of our stomachs" and felt they failed to protect their daughters from the online predator.

Det Gda Connolly said that American authorities contacted gardai about a gmail account being used to share child porn. Investigators eventually tracked the gmail account to Horan and gardai searched his address.

DEVICES

They seized a number of devices and got him to disclose all of the passwords to his online applications.

In a forensic investigation that took over a year, gardai discovered thousands of images and videos of child porn, some involving babies. Horan also engaged in graphic text exchanges with the child abusers in which he would describe violent sexual acts.

Det Gda Connolly said Horan would copy and paste the same descriptions of sexual acts he would like to perform and send them to multiple message recipients.

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