A YOUNG mum has been commended after turning detective and helping to expose a dangerous sexual predator who hijacked her social media profile.
Kirk Gibson used Alice Rutherford-Hyde’s name and images she posted online as he created a fake profile and posed as a female to groom a vulnerable 15-year-old girl over several weeks from his home in Penrith.
Miss Rutherford-Hyde first learned Gibson, 31, had stolen her identity when the girl – whom she didn’t know – contacted her out of the blue. The teen was oblivious she had been coaxed into illegal online chat.
The plucky 23-year-old delicately maintained a dialogue with the girl, alerting her family and police before the child and Gibson – formerly of Kendal and a previously convicted sex offender – could meet. Miss Rutherford-Hyde also courageously struck up internet chat with Gibson, who disclosed his photo and phone number.
He was arrested, admitted child sex crimes and was jailed for six years in May. The sentencing judge ruled Miss Rutherford-Hyde, of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, should receive an official commendation after her “alertness, diligence and persistence enabled a dangerous sex offender to be identified and exposed”.
The mum-of-one, whose second child is due next month, received the award during a ceremony at Carlisle Crown Court. “I was horrified and felt sick to my stomach,” Miss Rutherford-Hyde said of Gibson’s devious offending.
She was “surprised” by the commendation, and modestly added of her amateur online investigation: “I still don’t think I did anything more than anybody else should have done. I’m glad it had a good ending.”
During the court ceremony, Judge James Adkin said: “By her determination and public spiritedness, she saved that victim from potentially significant, long-term trauma, and for that she should be rightly praised and rewarded.”
Cumbria’s High Sheriff, Marcia Reid Fotheringham, who awarded the commendation, said: “In all actuality she saved a child, and her quick thinking and determination and detective work is to be commended.
“That, and the fact that she went above and beyond what most people would do in that instance, is true demonstration of great citizenship and she deserves the award.”