Met police officer from Stevenage ‘tried to meet 13-year-old for sex’

New Scotland Yard, the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police Service, in London. Police are review

New Scotland Yard, the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police Service, in London. - Credit: PA

A Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism officer from Stevenage arranged to a meet a 13-year-old girl for sex when he was “on duty working from home”, a court has heard. 

Francois Olwage, a detective constable who was serving with the Met’s specialist operations unit, is accused of “grooming” what he believed to be a teenage girl he had met on the Lycos online chat forum. 

But Winchester Crown Court has heard that the 52-year-old defendant was actually chatting with an undercover police officer pretending to be the girl using the username of Smile Bear before moving to WhatsApp using the name of Caitlin. 

The trial has heard that after two weeks of explicit sexual conversations in October 2021, Olwage, of Stevenage, Hertfordshire, arranged to meet the “girl” who had told him that she lived in Basingstoke, Hampshire. 

Peter Shaw, prosecuting, told the jury that at the start of the trial, Olwage pleaded guilty to an offence of improperly exercising his police powers and privileges in order to receive the “benefit of sexual gratification”. 

He also told the jury that Olwage had been listed as “on duty working from home” on October 28 2022, the date he travelled by train to Basingstoke with the aim of meeting the ‘girl’. 

The court has heard that Olwage was arrested at a McDonald’s restaurant in Basingstoke by two undercover officers as he was about to buy a McFlurry ice cream to take to his meeting with ‘Caitlin’. 

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When searched, the officers found in his bag two condoms, a bottle of lubricant and a packet of Tadalafil erectile disfunction tablets. 

There was also a box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates which Mr Shaw suggested was a present for the ‘girl’. 

Giving evidence to court, Olwage said that he gave himself the user name of Thorn on the Lycos chat site explaining that he was a “thorn amongst the roses” as he was “there to meet women”. 

The divorced father-of-three, originally from South Africa, said that his “dominant personality” trait was “kinky” and he started using Lycos with the aim of meeting a woman with a similar personality. 

He said that he had tried “fetish” websites but said “it wasn’t for me”. 

He said that he enjoyed “fantasy roleplaying” and he believed Smile Bear was an adult because her profile stated she was 18 and she was actually playing a role as a child. 

Describing his response to her saying she was 13, Olwage said that he was working “on the assumption this was a fake profile”. 

He said that when he spoke to an undercover police officer posing as the ‘girl’ on the phone, he thought it was a “young woman in her mid-20s”. 

He told the court: “I never believed she was a 13-year-old.” 

He said he had not specifically packed the bag containing the condoms and erection medicine and explained this was his travel bag for trips such as work trips, holidays or for dates. 

When asked if he would have had sex with the ‘girl’ if she had actually existed, he said: “No, I would have been very confused, tried to find out from her what was going on, why she was there. 

“There are certain practices as police officers that we have to do if we find a vulnerable child, I would have to contact local police.” 

Olwage denies engaging in sexual communication with a child and attempting to cause/incite a girl aged 13 to engage in sexual activity and attempting to meet a girl under the age of 16 following sexual grooming. 

The jury was ordered by Judge Jane Miller QC to find Olwage not guilty of another charge of arranging/facilitating the commission of a child sex offence. 

The trial continues.