Man groomed girl, 14, on the internet

A 30-year-old man, charged with child abduction and the sexual grooming of a 14-year-old Portrush girl, admitted to police he was "drawn to younger girls".

Londonderry Magistrates' Court was told that Jonathan Dowds of Abercorn Road in the city, sent 100 text messages in the space of six weeks to the schoolgirl, who was just 14 at the time of the incident.

It is alleged that Dowds told the girl, who cannot be named, that she was his girlfriend, that he wished to marry her, and have a baby together, but that she should wait until she turned 16 before telling her parents of their relationship.

It is also alleged that he established contacts with girls in Scotland.

Deputy District Judge Farland heard that during police interview Dowds said he "couldn't help himself" and had no confidence with girls his own age.

The court heard that the pair first struck up a relationship through a social networking site back in August, whilst Dowds was living in Newcastle.

A PSNI Detective told the court that during interview the girl, who was described as 'enamoured with the defendant still', claimed that Dowds had returned from England solely to meet her, and that he had financed the trip back to Londonderry by selling his laptop.

The teenager agreed to travel to Londonderry by train on Friday, January 7 to meet Dowds.

The girl's parents reported her missing within a few hours, police then arrived at Dowds' home at 1am on Saturday, January 8, and the girl was returned to her parents.

A Detective Constable told the court that the girl's parents had 'continuously sent text messages' to their daughter that day, as they were concerned about her welfare.

However, the officer said that Dowds had read the messages and had advised her on how to respond to her parents.

Dowds told officers that he was "nothing more than a shoulder for her to cry on."

And, that he had advised the girl to go home.

The court learned that the girl had been banned from using the internet by her parents, after they found out she had been in contact with a '19 year old male' online.

Dowds and the teenager then swapped mobile numbers in order to stay in contact with each other.

During interview, Dowds admitted to police that some of the texts he had sent the girl were of a 'sexual nature', but he denied any sexual contact had occurred between them.

The officer told the court that Dowds had admitted getting into bed with the teenager, but insisted that they had both been fully dressed at all times.

"There is no allegation of sexual contact between them," said the officer.

"The defendant fully admits to sending messages saying he wanted intercourse and that he was sexually attracted to her and drawn to younger girls," the officer told the court.

The Detective confirmed to the court that police had several phones and a laptop in their possession for examination belonging to Dowds.

It was stated that Dowds had swapped his mobile phone SIM card ten times in recent months, the most recent being with the injured party.

Applying for bail, defence solicitor Paddy MacDermott described Dowds as "a vulnerable person due to his low IQ, with no previous record."

Deputy District Judge McFarland replied: "I'm not concerned with his vulnerability."

Objecting to bail for fear of further offences being committed, the PSNI described a bail application for having no phones or laptop as 'impossible', due to the number of internet cafes in Londonderry.

The PSNI officer added that due to "numerous contacts" with other girls whose ages have yet to be identified, the police opposed bail until their enquiries were complete.

They also feared Dowds would fee the jurisdiction.

Bail was opposed and the case will continue on February 3.