Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Another victim identified in huge ‘catfish’ case

The Newry man at the centre of what has been described as the UK’s biggest ever ‘catfish’ case appeared at the city’s Magistrates Court via videolink from Maghaberry jail on Wednesday last.

Alexander McCartney (21) from Lissummon Road, is charged with multiple counts of sexual offences against children.

The case is described as a ‘complex and large investigation with an international element’.

In July of last year, McCartney had previously been charged with four counts of possessing indecent photographs, three counts of making indecent photographs, four counts of distributing indecent photographs of children, four counts of sexual communication with a child, four counts of inciting a child to engage in a sexual activity, four counts of intimidation and possession of Class B drugs.

Following police questioning in December, a total of 386 new charges were added, many of which involved children under the age of 13.  These included inciting a child into sexual activity including penetration; making, distribution and possession of indecent photographs of a child; blackmail and encouraging sexual activity with an animal.

Accused: Alexander McCartney

During Wednesday’s hearing, the court heard that a further victim has been identified who has been contacted by police but has yet to be interviewed.

Prosecution in the case requested a four-week adjournment to bring forward an update, stating: “In relation to all other matters, a full file has been submitted and it has been sent for counsel’s opinion.  The file is extensive, possibly the largest of its kind, certainly the largest ever in this jurisdiction. As such I am not able to provide a timetable at this point.”

Defence barrister Kevin O’Hare said a timetable “would be useful” in four weeks time. 

“This has been going on since last summer,” he told the court.  “I appreciate the size of the file and that this is going to be labour intensive, but one possible reason for bail would be the time this will take. We were told at the start this would be expedited, but there is concern this will drag on.”

The case was adjourned until April 8th.