Sex offender scared swimming trip kids

Children had enjoyed swimming session at Sir Matt Busby Sports Complex.

Children had enjoyed swimming session at Sir Matt Busby Sports Complex.

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A convicted sex offender who targeted a group of children was caught after one of them took a photo of him.

Thomas McConnell followed the youngsters who were so worried they raised the alarm with staff at Sir Matt Busby Sports Complex in Bellshill. They had been there for a swimming session.

An employee escorted the group of around a dozen youngsters, aged nine to 12, along the street and was shocked to see McConnell (57) performing a sex act at a bus stop.

McConnell, a prisoner, appeared at Hamilton Sheriff Court and admitted threatening or abusive behaviour which caused the children fear and alarm on April 2 this year. He also admitted carrying out a sex act in front of some of the group, but a charge that he made remarks of a sexual nature was dropped.

The court heard McConnell was already on the sex offenders’ register for another offence at the time of the incident

Callum Forsyth, prosecuting, said the children had been swimming and left the sports complex about 7pm. They were walking towards Tesco when they saw McConnell standing in a lane near the store.

Mr Forsyth told the court: “The accused said hello and one of the children responded in a polite fashion. Having been to the supermarket, they walked back in the direction of the sports complex where they saw McConnell again.

“The children had the impression he was following them. He was talking to them and the children became increasingly concerned for their safety. so much so that they went back into the sports complex and spoke to a member of staff at reception.

“The accused was waiting outside so a female leisure attendant went out with them. McConnell was at a bus stop but walked away.

“The attendant walked with the children to ensure their safety and make sure the accused had left the vicinity.”

The children went to a chip shop in Hamilton Road, but when they left this they saw McConnell again. He was standing at another bus stop and at this point the leisure attendant saw him touching himself.

Mr Forsyth went on: “She was shocked at this behaviour and ushered the children away.”

Police were alerted and, thanks to the photo taken by the quick-thinking youngster, they were able to arrest McConnell three days later.

Sentence on McConnell, who is in custody, was deferred until August 9 for a background report and risk assessment.