St Helens top police officer has described Maurice McCullough as a “sexual predator” who went to extraordinary lengths to groom his victims.
McCullough was jailed for 10 years on Monday after admitting grooming and abusing a 12-year-old St Helens schoolgirl.
Maurice McCullough is a sexual predator who went to extraordinary lengths to groom his victim, posing as a teenage boy online and communicating with her for weeks in order to gain her trustChief Supt Julie Cooke
Chief Supt Julie Cooke, area commander for St Helens, said: “This was an horrendous case which has left an entire family traumatised and in shock.
“Maurice McCullough is a sexual predator who went to extraordinary lengths to groom his victim, posing as a teenage boy online and communicating with her for weeks in order to gain her trust.
“He then went on to abuse her over a period of months. It is truly every parent’s worst nightmare.
“In her witness statement, the victim’s mum has spoken candidly of the lasting impact that McCullough’s actions have had.”
Chief Supt Cooke added: “This case highlights how children can be exploited on social media sites without realising anything is wrong until it is too late. It also shows how important it is to know what your children are doing online and to encourage them to speak to you about the friendships they are making.
“Child Sexual Exploitation (‘CSE’) is a terrible crime which can affect any family, anywhere. We are, however, determined to play our part in tackling the problem. Only last week, as part of National CSE Awareness Day, we helped to launch, Listen To My Story, a campaign and website which is there to raise awareness of CSE among young people, parents, grandparents, in fact every single one of us.
“It will help victims to find the right kind of support and advice if they have suffered abuse in the past. It also has loads of information for young people to help them if they think they are being exploited, or if they are worried one of their friends may be.
“Everyone of us has to play our part in putting a stop to the sexual exploitation of children and we all need to know the signs to look for, including if they are regularly missing school, appearing with unexplained gifts, having mood swings or becoming secretive about their use of social media.
“If you are a child, you may think it’s cool to get involved with older people but they may ask you to perform sexual acts or take photos of yourself in return and you may be pressured to keep these things secret. If we all look out for these signs and report any suspicions, we can break the cycle.”