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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 February, 2004, 15:52 GMT
Ex-marine admits abduction
Toby Studabaker
The ex-marine met the 12-year-old in an internet chatroom
A former US marine has admitted abducting a 12-year-old girl he met in an internet chatroom.

Toby Studabaker, 32, of Michigan, pleaded guilty at Manchester Crown Court to abduction and incitement to gross indecency.

He sparked an international manhunt after leaving the country with the girl, from the Wigan area.

He was arrested in Germany after the incident last July, and extradited to the UK in August.

The judge, Mr Justice Leveson, adjourned the case until 2 April for pre-sentence and psychiatric reports.

Chatroom fears

Prosecutor Beverley Lunt told the hearing that Studabaker and the 12-year-old stayed in a Paris hotel after flying there together from Manchester.

After two days in Paris, they then travelled by train to Strasbourg.

Studabaker was later arrested in Frankfurt and flown to England.

He has considered suicide in the past before
Alison Hunter
Defence lawyer
Reacting to the news of his guilty plea, his brother, Leo, told a BBC reporter in Three Rivers, Michigan: "If he did it, it's about time he admitted it."

The pair's disappearance renewed concerns about the dangers of paedophiles using internet chatrooms to ensnare their victims.

Greater Manchester Police have confirmed Studabaker faces four similar charges in the United States.

From 1993 to 1994, he studied at a bible college in Ohio, where he told fellow students he felt able to serve God better and "draw closer to Him".

Defending, Alison Hunter told Manchester Crown Court Studabaker had harboured suicidal tendencies after the death of his wife in 2001 from bone cancer.

"In short, following on from her death, he was given anti-depressants and there are a number of complicating features surrounding his depression.

"He has considered suicide in the past before... it concerns me that I may have to address the court as something of an amateur psychiatrist," the barrister added.

Speaking outside court, Det Supt Tony Brett thanked other police forces worldwide for their help in tracking down the ex-Marine.

He said: "I would very much like to take this opportunity to thank on behalf of Greater Manchester Police, the FBI, the naval criminal investigation services, the US Marine Corps, Interpol and law enforcement agencies in both France and Germany and the CPS for their support throughout this investigation."

He said he would be making a fuller statement once sentencing had taken place in April.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Catherine Marston
"He pleaded guilty to her abduction and a sexual offence"



SEE ALSO:
Dark past of US marine
12 Feb 04  |  Manchester
Children ignore net chat dangers
06 Feb 04  |  Technology
Q&A: Internet chatrooms
24 Sep 03  |  Technology


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