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Last Updated: Friday, 2 April, 2004, 16:35 GMT 17:35 UK
Ex-marine jailed for abduction
The ex-marine met the 12-year-old in an internet chatroom
A former US marine who admitted abducting a 12-year-old British girl he met in an internet chatroom has been jailed for four-and-a-half years.

Toby Studabaker, 32, of Constantine, Michigan, was described by police as a "calculating" and "dangerous" man.

The judge, Mr Justice Leveson, told him using the internet to groom children for sex deserved a harsh punishment.

Studabaker sparked an international manhunt after leaving the country with the girl, from Greater Manchester.

He pleaded guilty at Manchester Crown Court to abduction and incitement to gross indecency.

Earlier on Thursday, he had tried to change his plea on the indecency charge to not guilty, claiming his original legal team had misadvised him.

The nature and tone of some of your communications demonstrates that you, then 32 years old, were intent on sexual intimacy with a girl you knew to be 12
Mr Justice Leveson

But Mr Justice Leveson, rejected his claims and went ahead with the sentencing.

He told Studabaker: "The nature and tone of some of your communications, including the so-called cyber sex, demonstrates that you, then 32 years old, were intent on sexual intimacy with a girl you knew to be 12.

Studabaker graphically described sex acts but the girl's replies were said to be more romantic and innocent than sexual.

Although the girl had originally said she was 17, he knew she was 11 or 12 when the cybersex took place.

Mr Justice Leveson added: "Although the internet can be a force for very great good it is not always so and its abuse can slip under the guard of parents who are not aware what their children can get involved in while on the web."

Hotel sex

The girl's family, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were in court for the sentencing.

Studabaker "groomed" the girl online and visited her in Manchester before flying with her to Paris.

The pair stayed in a hotel, where they had sex, for two days before travelling on by train to Strasbourg.

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

Explicit emails

Following his arrest Greater Manchester Police and the FBI seized four computers to which Studabaker had access and two computers used by his victim.

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

It had been claimed in mitigation that Studabaker was affected by abuse he suffered as a child and by the death of his wife after five years of marriage.

Although the internet undoubtedly helped him to contact the girl, it cannot be blamed for his actions after this point
Det Chief Insp Mark Roberts

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Roberts, who was part of Greater Manchester Police's investigation team, said the case highlighted the dangers of the internet but Studabaker was the real villain.

"The victim in this case is a child but Studabaker is a grown man with military experience," he said.

"It is important not to lose sight of this, as although the internet undoubtedly helped him to contact the girl, it cannot be blamed for his actions after this point."

It is not the first time Studabaker has faced allegations of a sexual nature.

A family member accuse him of groping a 12-year-old's breasts during a wrestling game in 1998.

No charges were brought.

The BBC's Judith Moritz
"Toby Studabaker knew from a very early period that this child was twelve years old"

Ex-marine tries to change plea
02 Apr 04  |  Manchester
Ex-marine admits abduction
12 Feb 04  |  Manchester
Dark past of US marine
12 Feb 04  |  Manchester
Q&A: Internet chatrooms
24 Sep 03  |  Technology

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