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Last Updated: Friday, 1 December 2006, 18:32 GMT
Men plotted online to rape girl
Three men who had never met have been convicted of conspiring to rape a girl under 16, based on internet messages.

They hatched a plot to rape and allegedly murder a girl, making "chilling references to the Soham murders", Southwark Crown Court heard.

David Beavan, 42, of Bransgore, Hants, Alan Hedgcock, 41, of Twickenham, and Robert Mayers, 42, of Warrington, were all cleared of plotting murder.

The trio, who will be sentenced next month, made their plans in a chatroom.

The jury heard the three men communicated with each other over a free and reputable site which allows users to chat and exchange photographs.

The court was told they discussed a variety of scenarios and even referred to doing a "Holly and Jess" - a reference to the Soham 10-year-olds murdered by Ian Huntley in 2002.

Any agreement to commit acts such as rape - however remote the end result may be - has to be treated with the full force of the law
Usha Shergill, CPS lawyer

Surveillance began after Beavan went to Bournemouth police with a DVD containing information from chat logs, the court was told.

There was no evidence they had met face to face before they were charged.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said they believed it was the first case of its kind to appear before the courts.

CPS lawyer Usha Shergill told BBC News: "Any agreement to commit acts such as rape - however remote the end result may be - has to be treated with the full force of the law.

"Working with Scotland Yard's Paedophile Unit before charge, I knew the moment to advise arrest and charge had come as soon as this discussion took place.

"Even though the defendants had entered guilty pleas to the possession of indecent images, I opted not to drop the conspiracy charges and we rejected Beavan's claims that he was acting as a vigilante to try to prevent this event happening."




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