Friday, 14 Jun 2024

Autistic British girl, 12, raped by US airman after they met on Snapchat in UK

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An autistic British girl was raped by a US airman who met her on Snapchat while he was stationed in the UK.

Dennis Rocha, 18, was jailed for six years and eight months for his role in the abuse of the 12-year-old, who he knew was underage.

After they started interacting, Rocha, a Californian US Air Force airman, turned their conversation sexual and arranged to pick the unnamed girl up.

The military man travelled 140 miles from his RAF Mildenhall base in Suffolk to meet the victim in Wiltshire back in April.

Rocha, from Beck Row, Mildenhall, picked the girl up from her home address before taking her to a secret spot, where they had sex in his car, Swindon Crown Court was told.

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During his sentencing hearing, the court heard the intercourse was consensual and no force used.

In the aftermath of the incident, the girl described how angry with herself she was, and the regret she felt at the encounter.

The victim’s mother told cops that her daughter had been diagnosed with autism at the age of four, making some aspects of her life a struggle. Now, the youngster has difficulties communicating, particularly with strangers, and doesn’t socialise with her friends.

When interviewed by police the girl apologised for how the incident had impacted others, most notably her mother, who she claimed wanted her to be older and in love when she had sex for the first time.

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The encounter between the defendant and victim lasted around an hour, prosecutor Chris Smyth told the court. During that period they had sex numerous times, and on one occasion the condom Rocha was using slipped off.

In an impact statement to the police, the victim described how she was “worried I might be pregnant and won’t find out until next week”.

In his sentencing remarks, Judge James Townsend said Rocha “had ample opportunity to think twice about what you were doing but you persisted”.

He added: “You knew that she was far younger than you and obviously vulnerable. The fact she agreed to what was happening is no mitigation due to her age.”

As well as his spell behind bars, Rocha was given an indefinite sexual harm prevention order, and must sign the sex offenders’ register when he is released.

Rocha, according to his defence barrister Sam Jones, was a “kind-hearted and gentle young man”, and the enormity of his actions only sunk in “when he returned to base”.

In a video link from Bullingdon Prison, Rocha told the court: “First off I just want to apologise to the family and anyone else I have hurt because of this incident. I wish this never happened… and I am so sorry, I hope you can forgive me and have mercy upon me.”

Investigating officer DC Amanda Lord, of the Child Abuse Investigation Team, added: “Rocha instigated this encounter with the victim despite knowing she was underage. He knew what he was doing was illegal and had ample opportunity to cease contact with the victim, but continued and took advantage of her for his own gain.

“We take offences like these incredibly seriously and we will always look to protect children from predators such as Rocha and ensure perpetrators of sexual offences are put before the courts. I’d also like to commend the victim for her bravery and courage in speaking to us.”

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