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Man accused of setting up a fake model agency after Cookstown arrest

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

A 23-year-old man has appeared in court accused of setting up a fake model agency to coax women into sexual acts online after being arrested by Police in Cookstown.

It is alleged that Ryan Eastwood, from Grasmere Mews, Coleraine, set up a Facebook account under the name "Shannon Donnelly" which was linked to his address by an internet provider.

Eastwood, dressed in plain grey jog bottoms and matching sweat top, appeared at Limavady Magistrates Court on Wednesday April 19.

The court heard how women were contacted through Facebook by Shannon Doherty who claimed to be "Head of Recruitment" for a model agency.

The women were then persuaded to conduct a Skype "interview" with a man calling himself Matthew who had an Irish accent, when they posed nude and some performed sex acts, it was alleged.

The defendant was arrested at a property in Cookstown the previous day and Police seized a mobile phone and an X-Box game console for analysis.

Eastwood, who works in a restaurant in Coleraine, allegedly set up the Facebook account to contact 16 alleged victims and "interview" them on Skype, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) told the court.

Detective Constable Paul Robinson said: "The females have been left very traumatised, leaving some of them seeking medical help and counselling."

Police traced the Facebook account to an address in Coleraine where items were seized.

Eastwood told detectives he had not used Skype since he was 16 and denied any knowledge of the offences.

Eastwood is charged with 16 offences, including causing a person to engage in a sexual act without consent and improper use of electronic communications to cause anxiety.

Following Police searches of his devices, 17,500 images of women were found; most were deleted but still stored as thumbnails, the court was told.

Applying for bail, defence for Eastwood said he was in a steady relationship and has a steady job in a restaurant for the past two years.

Defence also said Eastwood would comply with any bail conditions, although he requested to be allowed to work until 11pm. The judge did not impose a curfew.

Detective constable Paul Robinson told the court the PSNI opposed bail due to the risk of further offending.

Police contacted a company in London called UK Models, which Eastwood allegedly based his fake agency on.

The London firm provided investigators with details of 20 women who had contacted them reporting similar cases. Police believe they can connect the accused to 15 of these.

Eastwood insisted someone was setting up the Facebook and Skype accounts in his name.

Deputy District Judge Peter Magill released him on bail of 500 to appear again at Coleraine Magistrate's Court on May 8.

Eastwood was ordered to report to Police once a week, and banned from accessing the internet

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