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A man with "an unhealthy interest in children" smashed his phone and dropped it into a pot of paint in a bid to prevent it from being used in evidence, a court has heard.
Sven Hendriksen was snared by paedophile hunters who managed to convince him that he was messaging young girls in their early teens.
The vigilante group, Geordie Chasers, had linked up with a similar organisation called Groom Resisters Scotland to track down Hendriksen, who was also known by the name "Steven Henderson".
Hendriksen, 42, had a previous conviction for possessing indecent images of children, dating back to 2017. Under the terms of his suspended sentence, he was not permitted to possess the phone or to use an online alias.
But Hendriksen had been messaging people that he believed to be young girls, asking them for intimate photos and encouraging them not to reveal anything about their "relationship" to their parents.
According to GeordieChasers, Hendrickson "wanted to travel to Scotland to meet the child and take her somewhere private for sex and sexual activity".
They added that Hendriksen "also told the child to delete her messages every night so no one would see them and made her promise to keep him a secret from her mam".
After gathering sufficient evidence of Hendriksen's offences, the group passed it on to the police.
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At Durham Crown Court, reports The Northern Echo, prosecutor Chris Baker described how Hendriksen encouraged the girls to message him via WhatsApp where he steered the conversation in an increasingly sexual direction.
Baker said: "Hendriksen asked one to be his girlfriend, telling her he would come to Scotland to perform oral sex on her."
Police arrested Hendriksen on February 24, and despite his efforts were able to retrieve some evidence of the explicit chats from his smashed phone.
Hendriksen confessed that he had engaged the "girls" in explicit conversations but denied planning to meet them in person.
Amrit Jandoo, mitigating, told the court that Hendriksen’s offending was the product of mental health difficulties and depression.
Sentencing Hendriksen to 29 months behind bars, Judge Ray Singh told him: "I'm afraid you are someone who has an unhealthy interest in children."
Even though all the "girls" he was chatting to were in fact decoys, he added, "as far as you were concerned these were genuine children".
Hendriksen was also made the subject of registration as a sex offender and a Sexual Harm Prevention Order, both for a further 10 years.
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