Northern Ireland

Coleraine man 'used fake model agency for sex acts'

Ryan Eastwood leaving Limavady Magistrates' Court, 19 April 2017 Image copyright PA
Image caption Ryan Eastwood denies charges including causing a person to engage in a sexual act without consent

A man has appeared in court accused of using a fake modelling agency to persuade women to commit sex acts.

Ryan Eastwood, from Grasmere Mews in Coleraine, allegedly set up a Facebook account to contact 16 women and "interview" them on Skype, police said.

Mr Eastwood, 23, denied knowledge of the offences, which were committed in 2016 and 2017.

His first alleged target ended up naked and carrying out a sex act, police said.

Police said at least one other woman engaged in a similar action.

The women had been traumatised by the experience, with some having sought medical help and counselling, a detective constable told Limavady Magistrates' Court.

Mr Eastwood was linked in court to the Facebook account of a Shannon Donnelly, a model recruiter.

One woman told police she spoke to a man with an Irish accent who called himself Matthew and held a Skype interview last year, the detective said.

The encounter began with the woman posing fully clothed, then in underwear and then naked, subsequently leading to her carrying out a sex act, he added.

Upon further investigation, police said they had connected Mr Eastwood to 15 other women, although most did not engage in sexual behaviour.

'Potential victims'

He faces charges including causing a person to engage in a sexual act without consent and improper use of electronic communications to cause anxiety.

Police identified the internet provider used by the person calling himself Matthew and linked it to the defendant's address.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Mr Eastwood said someone had set up fake Facebook accounts in his name

Mr Eastwood told detectives he had not used Skype since he was 16, and denied any knowledge of the offences.

He also denied any knowledge of the Shannon Donnelly Facebook account.

When police searched his devices, they located 17,500 images of women, most of which had been deleted but were still stored as thumbnails.

The detective constable said: "It became more apparent that we had a number of other potential victims."

Police contacted a company in London called UK Models, on which the suspect allegedly based the fake agency.

The firm provided investigators with details of 20 women who had contacted them reporting similar cases.

Police said they could connect the accused to 15 of these.

Mr Eastwood argued that someone had set up the accounts in his name.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Police said the fake modelling agency account was operated via social media

A judge released him on £500 bail to appear at Coleraine Magistrates' Court on 8 May.

The defendant was ordered to report regularly to police and not to access the internet.