4:00pm Tuesday 20th November 2012
By Chris Gregory
“IT WAS the day I lost the daughter I once knew.”
That is how a heartbroken Basingstoke mother described the day that her 12-year-old daughter fell into the clutches of internet sex predator Gary Cooper, who raped her.
Devious Cooper had posed as a 15-year-old girl on a social networking site to make contact with the Basingstoke schoolgirl.
Winchester Crown Court heard how he turned up pretending to be the imaginary girl’s father to pick the 12-year-old up at an agreed meeting point. Her family had no knowledge about the meeting and thought she was with a friend.
In the dock, Cooper, who claimed to be a transsexual, pleaded guilty to rape and other offences against the schoolgirl and another 15-year-old girl, from Coventry.
Rob Bryan, prosecuting, read out parts of a victim impact statement made by the Basingstoke girl’s mother.
She said: “The effect on our family life and relationships over this period has at times been unbearable, and as a mother, I have found it heartbreaking.
“It’s hard to imagine a time when this was not part of our lives. My daughter has become angry and refuses to speak to me about it. To me, it will be the day I lost the daughter I once knew.”
The court heard that Cooper, 47, joined a website where, using phoney details, he described himself as a 15-year-old girl called Chantelle, from Coventry.
That same day, he made contact via the website with the 12-year-old schoolgirl and was soon exchanging messages and swapping phone numbers, posing both as Chantelle and Chantelle’s father.
Mr Bryan said: “Chantelle’s father said he wanted to meet with her and Chantelle would be present. But, in fact, when they did meet up there was no girl – there never was.”
The court heard that the 12-year-old got in the car with a 15-year-old friend. The older teenager then asked Cooper for a lift to Southend, Essex. He agreed, but Mr Bryan said that when they got to Southend, the younger girl asked to get out as well, but Cooper said she could not.
When officers, alerted by the 12-year-old’s friend, went to Cooper’s Hertford address the following morning, they found him naked with the girl inside his flat.
They also found mobile phones and laptop computers, which led to them discovering he had been involved in a nine-month sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl, from Coventry, that started in 2010. The court heard she was also groomed online, and had an abortion when she became pregnant by Cooper.
Christopher Baur, defending, asked for Cooper’s guilty pleas to be taken into consideration. He added that as a transsexual, Cooper, of Windsor Drive, Hertford, had found his time in custody on remand “extremely difficult”.
Cooper pleaded guilty to one count of rape of a girl under 13, two counts of meeting a child after sexual grooming, six counts of making indecent pictures of a child, and one count of sexual activity with a girl under 16.
Judge Susan Evans said: “You are a sexual predator. Your offending was highly manipulative, planned and sophisticated.”
Cooper was sentenced to a total of 14 years and four months in prison, and he was told he would be on the sexual offenders register for life.
After the hearing, Detective Inspector Dave Storey urged parents to check on where their children are, and what they are looking at online.
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