Police officer groomed 200 girls for explicit images, court hears – The Guardian

Lewis Edwards resigned from South Wales police after being caught posing as a teenager on Snapchat and secretly recording girls as young as 10
A serving police officer incited more than 200 girls as young as 10 to share explicit images and videos of themselves with him via Snapchat, a court has heard.
Lewis Edwards, 24, who was suspended from the police force after he was caught and subsequently resigned, sometimes posed as a 14-year-old boy called James when he contacted girls and got them to carry out sexual acts.
He secretly recorded them and would force them to continue to send him material even when they begged him to leave them alone, by threatening to send the images to friends and family if they refused.
Edwards, who has admitted more than 150 offences, refused to attend his sentencing hearing, which is due to end on Wednesday, at Cardiff crown court.
His barrister, Susan Ferrier, told the court he had declined to attend. The recorder of Cardiff, Judge Lloyd-Clarke, acknowledged she had no power to compel him to be there and the sentencing began in his absence.
Roger Griffiths, prosecuting, said Edwards had joined South Wales police in January 2021 and the majority of the offences happened when he was an officer.
Griffiths said members of the police’s online investigation team executed a search warrant at the house Edwards shared with his mother and father in Bridgend, not far from South Wales police headquarters, in February 2023.
He said: “The defendant was in his bedroom. Found next to him were two mobile phones. Police began the mammoth task of investigating vast quantities of material on the electronic devices they were able to access.
“What it revealed was online interaction between the defendant and female children. He would request girls to engage in various sexual activities.”
He would secretly record the girls and when they refused to comply with further requests, would blackmail them to force them to provide more images. “He would say he was going to post images he had on social media platforms to friends and family,” Griffiths said.
The court heard one girl, who was 13 and 14 when she was targeted, suggested to Edwards she would take her own life.
She told him: “You been granted with a mentally unstable girl that’s wanted to kill herself. If I jumped off my room, do you think that would do it? I am not even joking by the way if you think I am joking because I’m not.”
During one conversation, Edwards gave her a deadline to carry out an act. He wrote to her: “If I aint see it by then its going everywhere. [sic]”
In a victim personal statement, the girl said: “I was only 13 when I was manipulated to being forced to send images of myself online to someone I thought was 15, now I know he’s a grown man, a serving police officer, a paedophile. I was only a little girl.
“At 13 that is not what you should go through, it was wrong. I was threatened and trolled for over a year. I feel confused, embarrassed and disgusted and have no self-esteem. I lost my innocence and had to grow up rapidly to mentally understand what was going on.
“I have a repeated nightmare where a man with a camera is watching me all of the time. I never see the man and then I wake up.”
The court heard Edwards told victims to write “Snap God” on their bodies. Snap God is a distributor of child sexual abuse material whom Edwards had bought images from using bitcoin.
Edwards also threatened to bomb the house of one of his victims and shoot her parents if she stopped sending him images, the court was told.
The mother of another victim, who was 12, said her daughter started sleeping with a hammer under her pillow believing Edwards’ threats. “She slept with a hammer she had taken from her dad’s toolbox under her pillow because she didn’t feel safe in her home with all the doors locked and secured,” the mother said. “She feels dirty and ashamed.”
Another mother said in a statement: “As a family we always told our children to respect and trust the police, what do we tell them now? As a family we believe he used his position and targeted innocent children.”
Several victims said their trust of the police had been shattered.
One said: “If something went wrong in the future, I wouldn’t trust the police to deal with it right. The police are supposed to look after us and they didn’t look after me.”
Addressing Edwards directly in her statement, another said: “Seeing where you are now makes me feel relieved. You can’t hurt anyone else, you are not in control.”
Edwards has admitted 162 offences relating to child sexual abuse.


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