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Co Armagh man at centre of UK’s largest catfishing investigation admits manslaughter of 12-year-old girl

A Co Armagh man involved in the largest case of so-called cat-fishing in the UK has today admitted to the manslaughter of a 12-year-old girl.

Alexander McCartney, of Lisummon Road in Newry – but who is on remand in Maghaberry prison – appeared via videolink at Belfast Crown Court on Monday morning.

The 26-year-old had previously pleaded guilty to 85 charges involving more than 60 victims across the world. A restriction on reporting this fact was lifted earlier today.

The manslaughter victim – who cannot be named for legal reasons – took her own life in 2018.

The remaining charges relate largely to making and distributing indecent photographs and a total of seventy charges of inciting children to engage in sexual activity.

They cover a period from 2013 to 2019 with victims being identified across the world.

During an unsuccessful bail hearing in April 2020, a prosecuting lawyer outlined how the investigation began in March 2018 when Scottish police alerted the PSNI to a so-called “catfish” incident involving a 12-year-old girl who was befriended on Snapchat.

It was the police case that the schoolgirl sent a naked picture of herself to the defendant, who is then alleged to have blackmailed her that “if she didn’t do what was asked her image would be uploaded to the internet”.

Police enquires identified McCartney and when his home was searched, police seized a computer and mobile phone which when examined, officers allegedly uncovered thousands of images of young girls in “various states of dress and undress, performing various sexual acts”.

The investigation was described as the “biggest case of its kind” in the UK.

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