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Alleged manipulator of teen returned to custody after ‘spectacular’ High Court bail breach

A Benburb man facing charges relating to an alleged “controlling and manipulative” relationship with a female which began in her mid-teens has been returned to custody, days after being granted High Court bail.

Craig Leitch, from Lisgobban Road, is accused of sexually communicating with the complainant as a child and inciting sexual activity during 2019 and 2020.

From February this year, the 31-year-old allegedly used abusive behaviour and from October 1 until his arrest earlier this month, engaged in stalking.

When first charged it emerged police received a report of Leitch grooming the complainant for around three years.

She first encountered him at an event at which they were in a hot-tub, when he allegedly touched her leg and requested her Snapchat details.

It is claimed his wife was present and told him to stop, which his defence team dispute.

After that meeting, he allegedly asked her to engage in sexual activity, but she refused.

They had intermittent contact during which he offered to “show her the ropes” and conversed sexually.

Several alleged secret meetings took place until a relationship began in earnest earlier this year, but Leitch “became obsessive” frequently asking who she was with and becoming aggressive if she didn’t do what he said.

He would check-up on her at work and wanted her to leave the job as she had male colleagues.

Prior to this, he would arrive at her school, also checking up on her.

Last month she woke to find Leitch getting into bed beside her and when she demanded to know how he accessed her family home in the middle of the night, he claimed to have had a key cut.

She spent around 90 minutes convincing him to leave, a previous court sitting heard.

Thereafter he began “hovering outside her home”, on one occasion for four hours.

While all sexual activity was consensual, the complainant said Leitch made her feel she “had to make him happy.”

When arrested he accepted the relationship but denied any offences.

The defence contended Leitch was “being romantic” when he went to the complainant’s school or work and, “while she says it was controlling, he says it was a loving relationship, albeit there’s an age-gap.”

Bail was refused with the judge on that occasion expressing concerns of witness interference, but that was challenged at High Court where Leitch was released on strict terms.

However just days later, he was arrested after allegedly sending a heart image to the complainant’s social media.

Opposing bail again, a detective told Enniskillen Magistrates’ Court today (Monday) the complainant was already distressed when Leitch was freed and the contact has heightened this.

He said: “We remain concerned he could influence her to withdraw her statement. He may go out of his way to contact her. Within days of being granted High Court bail he has shown he can’t help himself by contacting this girl who is terrified.”

Describing the breach as relatively minor, the defence stressed: “My client was in a relationship once the complainant was of legal age and her family ultimately knew. He attended a family meeting about this, but things turned sour and these allegations came out.”

He added: “My client is particularly Christian. A Reverend Mullan linked-in for the High Court bail application and the defendant’s brother-in-law is heavily involved in the church. In addition my client’s father is willing to put forward a £5,000 cash surety.”

District Judge Steven Keown threw out the application remarking: “I don’t believe the injured party views this breach as relatively minor. The defendant was given an opportunity on bail and he failed spectacularly in a short space of time.”

Leitch will appear again by video-link at Dungannon Magistrates’ Court later this month.

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