Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Soldier denies Portsmouth paedophile ring involvement

A soldier from Hampshire who saw action in Iraq five years ago has denied being involved in a paedophile ring.

Daniel Bell, 27, from Emsworth, had linked up with Robert Hathaway over the internet, Portsmouth Crown Court heard.

Hathaway, 36, from Portsmouth, has already pleaded guilty to 26 offences, including the rape and sexual assault of two children under the age of 13.

Mr Bell told the court any conversations they had had were "pure fantasy".

Earlier the court heard how Hathaway and his partner Melissa Noon, 30, of Tyseley Road, Portsmouth, set up a nudist forum website as a cover for an international paedophile ring and subjected two children to "shocking" sexual abuse.

'Hate myself'

They also used the internet to make arrangements for other people to abuse the two children, the court heard.

The prosecution said the soldier had an inherent interest in children and chatlogs from online conversations between Mr Bell and Hathaway were read out to the jury.

Mr Bell told the jury that he had suffered a number of setbacks in his personal life, had taken to drinking and had sought out conversation with Hathaway out of loneliness.

He maintained that even though the pair had discussed sexual activity with children and the possibility of meeting up, it was nothing that he had ever intended to follow through.

Mr Bell told the court he had done it to get attention from Hathaway.

He said: "In the clear light of day I am sickened by it - it doesn't remind me of anything I would do - it makes me hate myself."

Mr Bell denies two offences of arranging a child sex offence, one of attempting to distribute indecent images of children and two of possessing indecent images of children.

Other defendants

Ms Noon, who denies 12 charges, chose not to give evidence.

She is charged with two counts of sexual assault of a child, three of causing a child to engage in sexual activity, causing a child to watch a sexual act, three offences of arranging a child sex offence and inciting a child to engage in a sexual act.

The 30-year-old also faces two charges of possessing indecent images of children.

Also standing trial is Simon Hilton, 29, of Wolsey Road, London, who denies three charges of arranging a child sex offence. He also chose not to take the stand earlier.

John Maddox, 46, of Rainham, Essex, denies causing a child to engage in sexual activity; Mark Day, 45, of Whitefriars Meadow, Sandwich, Kent, denies two charges of arranging a child sex offence and a sixth man, Stephen Fraser, 41, of Hemingford Road, Cambridge, has admitted offences of sexual assault of a child and causing a child to engage in sexual activity.

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