A 30-year-old tennis club coach knew that a girl was only 13 when he engaged in graphic sex chats with her online, a jury has decided.
Despite the girl revealing her age to Emyr Pepperell, of Two Mile Lane, Highnam, Gloucester, he told her she was ’hot’ - and said he would like her to perform oral sex on him, Taunton Crown Court was told.
Pepperell, described by the prosecution as a ’predatory paedophile’, was at the time of his offending an assistant coach at Ross on Wye Tennis Centre.
A spokesman for the Centre made it clear on Monday (October 4) that Pepperell was dismissed as soon as they heard about the allegations and he has not been seen there since then.
"He had completed all the Lawn Tennis Association safeguarding training and our coach was entirely happy to apppoint him at the time," said the spokesman.
"We have a lot of children at our centre who are coached by our coaches and we have to take the whole question of child safeguarding very seriously, which indeed we do.
"The moment we became aware of this case he was dismissed and we have not seen him since."
At the end of a five day trial the crown court jury of nine women and three men found Pepperell guilty last Friday (Oct 1) of engaging in sexual communication with a child between November 30 and December 3, 2019 for the purposes of sexual gratification.
The jury failed to agree on a verdict, however, on a second charge against Pepperell of encourgaing the girl to take indecent pictures of herself.
He was bailed to await sentence on November 23 and ordered to sign the sex offenders register forthwith.
Prosecutor James Tucker had told the jury that when Pepperell first started talking to the girl online she was only 12 but claiming to be 16. Pepperell said he was only 19 at that time.
The communications between them became increasingly became more sexual over time and Pepperell ’geotagged’ her picture to obtain the coordinates of her home address, said the prosecutor.
"The girl, now aged 14, recalls that on one occasion after communicating with Pepperell for some time her younger sister was in the room when he called on Facetime and she was able to see a very quick glimpse of him and quickly assessed he was not aged 19, as he had stated," said Mr Tucker.
"Initially she told him she was 16 but on December 1 2019 the girl opened up to him and told him that she wasn’t that age. Pepperell then asked her ’How old are you?’ and she told him she was 13 - yet he still carried on with his sexual advances.
"Pepperell’s response to this (hearing she was 13) was ’Oh s**t! Does that mean when you were sending the images of yourself you were only 12?’
"Pepperell then tells the girl ’How are you only 13, your body is amazing. I just can’t believe it. Do you have any pictures of you looking your age?’"
The prosecutor said that Pepperell’s electronic devices were seized and analysed and added: "The first message recovered by police after examining Pepperell’s devices, stated ’Hey sexy, I’m really horny, can you help me,’ and from this you can tell from this message that it was not the first message between Pepperell and the young girl, as it had been going on for some time.
"The girl sent Pepperell an image of herself which showed her exposed buttocks.
"The girl was then pressurised into sending another picture of her bottom while wearing a pink lace thong.
"He then asks her to send another picture of her bottom, with which she duly complies and shows she is wearing a black thong."
The jury was told that Pepperell had threatened he was going to kidnap the girl but the girl’s mother discovered what had been going on and she took over the conversation with Pepperell on December 3, 2019.
Mr Tucker said: "The mother tells Pepperell, ’You will pay for this. You’d better supply me with your address before my husband finds it for himself. Where do you teach? It will be easy to find that out too. Are you local or are you just visiting?’
"Pepperell then tells the mother ’Your daughter told me she was 16’, to which the mother responded ’She told you her real age yet you carried on, you little paedophile. I am reporting this to the police’.
"Pepperell goes on to tell the mother that he lived in Bath, but she didn’t believe this because not many people would travel an hour and a half to work. The mother blocked Mr Pepperell’s number on her daughter’s phone."
The jury was told that Pepperell was traced and arrested by police and he accepted that the mobile phone was his and that the messages he sent were for his sexual gratification up to the point when he learnt her real age. He denied ever knowing that she was not under 16 years of age.
The girl, now aged 14, told the jury in evidence that it all began when a friend on social media said that one of her male friends had fancied her and she agreed to chat with him.
"The girl recalls that on one occasion her younger sister was in the room when Pepperell called her on Facetime and she was able to see a very quick glimpse of him for the first time and quickly assessed he was not aged 19 - she believed that he was a lot older - ’more like he was 25 years of age with dark blond hair, which was messy on top,’ she said."
The girl added: "I challenged him about his age but he retaliated, saying ’I know where you live’ and he proved this by showing me on another phone in his hand displaying the Google street view of my house and he began threatening me.
"My sister said he wouldn’t come to our house, at which point Pepperell warned me ’Don’t block me because I will come to your house when your parents are not in. I know their movements.’
"I only carried on chatting with him because I didn’t want any of us to come to any harm."
"He would send videos of himself mas*****ting and he would always text me back with inappropriate stuff. He would always ask for me to send pictures of my private parts, which I refused.
"I know he had a deep voice and his name sounded like it came from a different country. He texted me for over five weeks during which time he threatened me that if I didn’t do things he would come to my house.
"When I told him my real age he continued asking me to send him pictures of my private parts. I only sent him pictures of my face and other parts of my body because I didn’t want to take it any further.
"I cried a lot because I didn’t want to get involved. He kept asking if I had a boyfriend.
"I was really worried at the time, but when my Mum found out she told the police and I felt very relieved."
Chloe Griggs, defending, said it was Pepperell’s case that he always believed the girl to be aged 16 and not 13.
After four hours and 12 minutes the jury returned a unanimous verdict on Pepperell having sexual communication with a minor but after seven hours and 21 minutes the jury could not decided if Pepperell encouraged the 13-year-old girl the girl to take indecent photographs of herself between November 30, 2019 and December 4, 2019.
Trial judge Recorder Suzanne Chalmers will sentence Pepperell on November 23. Pepperell was released on unconditional bail and was placed on the sex offenders’ register pending sentence.