Former Alstonville cafe owner, Brendan Hill, has pleaded guilty to online grooming of a 14-year-old girl.
Former Alstonville cafe owner, Brendan Hill, has pleaded guilty to online grooming of a 14-year-old girl.

'Too old for you sweetie?' How cops nabbed child groomer

ALSTONVILLE man Brendan James Hill told police he was drinking "embarrassing" amounts of alcohol when he was caught out soliciting sex online with an undercover police officer posing as a 14-year-old girl.

Last November the 31-year-old father ran a well known café, the Savannah Café Lounge, on Alstonville's main street, and had no criminal record.

But on the night of November 6 last year he came to the attention of police officers working within the NSW Police Child Exploitation Unit.

Court documents can now reveal that Hill, under the username "35m4yngF", engaged with whom he thought was a 14-year-old named Tahlia Evans in an online chat room, Teen Chat.

Little did he know Tahlia Evans, username Sydgurl14, was a police officer.

The officer was working as part of an ongoing operation, Strike Force Trawler, targeting online child exploitation.

The police were authorised to pose as young teens and catch digital predators in the act.

Ignorant to all of this, Hill told the "girl" he was 35 years old and asked he if was "too old for you sweetie?"

She replied she was 14. "Very good... what do you look like baby? he responded. "Look good in a bikini? I can be the judge of that if you like :-)".

The pair swapped Skype details and ended the chat.

Shortly after 10pm that night they accepted each other's friend request on Skype started another chat, him calling her "cute 3 out of 3" and suggesting he get her drunk: "I won't tell anyone sweetie... our little secret shhh."

He suggested they meet "when you come up this way to visit your relos", "get drunk" and visit a "few quiet private spots" where there was "no need even for a bikini".

Just after 10.34pm he took a photo of his head and bare torso and sent it to her.

The officer responded with a photo of a teen girl.

More, increasingly lurid messages came the following day, until on November 8 Hill sent a lewd picture to the officer.

The next day, November 9, the pair had a live webcam chat, which featured yet another invitation for sex from Hill.

"You are very cute and I like you a lot," he wrote.

She didn't reply the following day.

Two months later on January 8 police swooped on Hill at his cafe, in a very public arrest.

During initial police interviews he denied interacting with the teen online, but he did tell police that he was home alone that week while his wife had been on holidays interstate.

He also admitted having a problem with alcohol and was drinking "embarrassing" amounts in the relevant period.

Yesterday Hill pleaded guilty in Lismore Local Court to one count of using a carriage service to groom a person under 16 years old.

The court has previously heard he suffers from "severe anxiety" and he will be assessed as part of a pre-sentence report before he is sentenced in the District Court.

He has been excused from appearing at the first mention of the matter before a District Court judge on September 17.



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