Grooming suspect preyed on young girls online since 10 years ago

PHOTO: The New Paper

PETALING JAYA - It was 10 years ago when Grace* (not her real name) and her friend were 12 and they first encountered the predator on Facebook. He was then in his late 20s.

At that age, the girls saw him as an “older brother” and thought he was just being friendly.

For years he messaged them frequently, inviting the girls out, commenting on their looks and leaving flirtatious messages in their inbox.

According to screenshots from 2011 when Grace was 15, the man had sent her messages like “I love you” and “I miss you”. He even invited Grace to his house, which was located near hers.

Grace said his “creepy invitations” made them realise something was not quite right.

Inappropriate behaviour: A screenshot of a WhatsApp conversation between the suspect and one of his victims. Photo: The Star/Asia News Network

They tried to block him from contacting them, but the predator would always find a way to communicate by creating a new Facebook account or getting a new phone number.

“We were constantly afraid that he might find us and God knows what he would do to us.

“We are now 22 and were shocked to see the Facebook post about him still harassing innocent young girls,” said Grace, who bumped into him at a mall a year or two ago. He started contacting her again, but she told him to stop.

“After that, he threatened me by saying things like ‘you don’t know who I am and what I am capable of, watch your words, don’t be picky’,” she said.

Grace is among several victims who have come forward alleging that a regular volunteer for charity work in his 30s has been targeting and grooming underage girls in NGOs and churches.

Chloe* was 16 when she was approached by the man on Facebook.

“He insisted on getting my number and asked me to WhatsApp him for free tickets to (K-pop boy band) Big Bang or for a free iPhone. Obviously, I was not stupid enough to believe that and chose to ignore him. Eventually, he stopped,” said Chloe, now 23.

Sarah* claims her young sister was preyed upon when she was only about 11.

Sarah, who was almost 20 at the time, used to stay in the same neighbourhood as the predator and said he was known as the “creepy guy who liked to disturb girls”.

“We all ignored him. I got really angry with him when he started preying on my sister. He called the house phone looking for me and persuaded her to give him her number instead.”

Nicole* was about 14 when she met the man at an event held by a club at school almost 10 years ago and exchanged numbers with him for networking purposes.

Soon after, he would text and call her relentlessly and make unsolicited comments about her physical appearance.

“Some people use ‘dear’ or ‘girl’ in regular daily speech, so initially I didn’t think much of it, but the texting became more personal and more about my appearance, how ‘mature’ I acted for my age and about making me his ‘pet sister’.

“He would sometimes call at night and if I didn’t pick up, he would ask if I was busy or ignoring him. Once in a while he would ask to meet up but I would reject his requests, which made him respond aggressively,” said Nicole, who is now almost 26.

Nicole did not mention this to any of her friends but one day, a schoolmate approached her and told her that he had said they were dating. Shocked, she cut off all contact with him.

Nicole never reported him as she was not sure anyone would believe her, a teenage girl, over a “churchgoing, upstanding citizen”.

“He’s managed to keep this up for over 10 years because people would rather sweep things under the rug. In smaller, insular groups such as church or volunteer groups, it’s hard to rock the boat and accuse someone without adequate support as you might find yourself being the one forced out instead.

“People need to be able to listen to young victims with an open mind and heart so that they can feel safe enough to come forward,” said Nicole.

Selangor CID chief Senior Asst Comm Fadzil Ahmat urged victims and their families to lodge a report if anything like this happened to them.

“It is important for those affected to lodge police reports immediately.

“Lodging a report will prevent the situation from getting worse for the victims and it will also prevent others from falling prey,” he said.

He hoped victims would cooperate with the police so that appropriate legal action could be taken against the suspect, adding: “We’ll conduct our duty without fear or favour,” he said.