Police officer accused of grooming 210 girls begged victim’s father not to report him, court told

A serving police officer who incited more than 200 girls to share explicit images and videos of themselves with him via Snapchat begged the father of one of his victims not to report him to the authorities, a court has heard.

Lewis Edwards posed as a 14-year-old boy to groom 210 girls aged between 10 and 16 on social media.

Cardiff Crown Court (pictured) heard that, during a three-year period, Edwards forced his victims to make indecent videos and images of themselves, which he secretly recorded.

He then used the recordings to blackmail his victims into sending increasingly graphic content – threatening to share the images online and tell their family and friends.

The 24-year-old, who also sent videos of himself performing sex acts, again refused to attend court for the second day of his sentencing hearing.

Edwards, who joined the force in January 2021 and has since resigned, had previously pleaded guilty to 22 counts of blackmail, 138 child sex offences and a further offence of refusing to disclose the password to a mobile phone and USB stick.

The court heard all but one of the victims were abused by Edwards while he was a serving police officer, and he targeted one teenager 17 days after meeting her as part of his duties.

Investigators found that on 30 occasions, Edwards was in contact with his victims during working hours.

Roger Griffiths, prosecuting, said one victim confessed to her father that she had sent Edwards an indecent image via Snapchat and he was asking for more and threatening to share it if she did not comply.

“Her father took her phone and messaged the individual, saying ‘This is her Dad stop now what you’re doing is illegal’,” Mr Griffiths said.

“Their response was ‘Lol’ – ‘laugh out loud’. He replied with a photograph of himself with the caption ‘Just in case you think I’m joking I’m her Dad stop now’.

“From there he sensed the individual seemed to panic. They begged ‘Please don’t say anything I won’t share then. I won’t do anything’.

“From the panic in the tone he assumed he was speaking with a child. He suspended her Snapchat account and reported the episode to Snapchat.”

Mr Griffiths said the girl’s parents reported the incident to the police and they received advice about online safety.

But that was not the last the family heard from Edwards, the court was told.

“To her new Snapchat account she received a friend request and she believed this to be a girl at her school.

“The moment she did so she got more threats of a similar nature,” Mr Griffiths said.

“He said ‘Send me more nudes. I’ll release the photos/send them your friend’. It began escalating.

“Her dad contacted the individual telling them to cease and from there they didn’t respond.”

In one recording played to the court, Edwards can be heard masturbating as he encourages his 12-year-old victim to do the same.

He also told a victim that other girls had killed themselves and he did not care if she did.

The court heard some girls were so traumatised by what Edwards did to them that they started self-harming, and another slept with a hammer under her pillow.

The court heard Edwards told victims to write “Snapgod” on their bodies. Snapgod is a distributor of child sexual abuse material from whom Edwards had bought images 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.

Several victims said their trust of the police has been shattered.

One mother said: “We cannot get our head around the fact that somebody who was there to protect you could do this.

“The smirk he gave us in court shows that he has no remorse. I do not think he can or will have any understanding or care how he has impacted his victims.

“Lewis Edwards, I want you to know that as a family we will never forgive you and we feel nothing for you but hate.”

Another mother said: “As parents you will do anything to protect your child and when we think about what she went through during that period, it really does break our hearts.”

During the prosecution’s opening, Mr Griffiths had to take a break having become emotional reading a statement from the mother of one of Edwards’s victims.

“As a family we are dealing the news of my declining physical health and I am in the process of undergoing medical treatment and time is extremely precious for us,” she said.

“The last few months are the time to be making memories and spending time with each other.

“Lewis Edwards has taken everything from us, including precious time. I want the court to understand life is never going to be the same for us again.

“He has destroyed the innocence of so many children and I hope they take some comfort in knowing they have had some justice.”

Edwards, of Heol Ty Cribwr, Cefn Glas, Bridgend, previously pleaded guilty to 161 offences, including blackmail, inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, making a child watch a sex act, demanding indecent images of children, and making indecent images of children.

Susan Ferrier, defending, urged Judge Tracey Lloyd-Clarke not to impose the maximum sentence of life imprisonment and said his “most powerful” mitigation was his guilty pleas.

She described his “appalling conduct” as “prolonged and shocking” and said he had been candid with the author of a pre-sentence report.

He told the author: “I cannot fathom the effect this has had upon them.

“I knew what I was doing was wrong and found it hard to look myself in the mirror. I am extremely sorry. I apologise to the victims and the court.”

They described him as “emotionally immature” and “ill-equipped” to deal with the challenges of being a police officer.

“He is not a young man who has had a relationship with a woman of his own age,” Ms Ferrier said.

“Once he started his offending it quickly got out of control. He knows that he faces a very long period of imprisonment.”

The hearing continues.

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