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Newry man admits manslaughter of 12-year-old girl


A Newry man at the centre of an international ‘catfishing’ investigation has admitted the manslaughter of a 12-year-old girl.

Alexander McCartney was informed he will be sentenced for this offence – alongside over 180 charges connected mostly to child abuse – later this year.

The 26-year-old appeared at Belfast Crown Court where he was re-arraigned on a charge of manslaughter.

He was charged that on 11 May 2018 he unlawfully killed a female child.

When asked how he pleaded, McCartney replied “guilty”.

He also admitted a charge of blackmailing the same child between 7 May and 11 May 2018.

At two previous court hearings in January 2021 and February 2022, McCartney pleaded to over 180 charges spanning over a period from 2013 to 2019.

These proceedings were subject to reporting restrictions which were lifted today by Mr Justice O’Hara.

‘Catfishing’ involves using a fake online identity to target other online users which then leads to online sexual abuse, exploitation and blackmail.

In this case, there are over 60 victims from as far afield as America and New Zealand, many of whom were contacted via Snapchat.

The charges McCartney had admitted to include multiple offences of causing a child to engage in a sex act, causing a child to engage in sexual activity and sexual communication with a child.

He also admitted over 50 charges of blackmail and multiple offences of possessing indecent images of children.

After McCartney pleaded guilty to the manslaughter and blackmail charges, his barrister Greg Berry KC confirmed that all the charges faced by his client have now been put to him.

Describing the case as “complex”, Mr Berry said he would be seeking reports ahead of sentencing.

The senior judge then addressed Crown barrister David McDowell KC and said that any Victim Impact Statements should be submitted to the court prior to sentencing.

Mr Justice O’Hara said “this is going to be a complex sentencing exercise” and asked that a “comprehensive list” of the offences and victims is compiled.

He said he would hear the plea on 16 May, adding: “I will sentence as soon as possible after that.”

Although no details of McCartney’s offending emerged today, a previous court heard that an investigation was launched in 2018 after police in Scotland received a complaint.

The investigation led to McCartney and after his Lissummon Road home was searched, a computer and mobile phone were seized.

When these devices were examined, thousands of indecent images of young girls were uncovered – and McCartney was subsequently charged with over 180 offences including manslaughter.

McCartney has been on remand since July 2019 and was returned back to custody at the conclusion of today’s hearing.


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