Messages from a monster

4 min read


My poor boy thought he was talking to a teenage girl


Looking out for my food shop delivery one afternoon in 2015, I poked my head through the curtains.

Instead of the supermarket van, I saw an unfamiliar car outside.

Who’s that? I thought, as a man climbed out and walked down our path.

Confused, I opened the door as he knocked.

‘I’m from social services,’ he said.

Frowning, I thought of my son Toby, then 13, at school.

Sure, he’d been a bit of a tearaway recently – getting in trouble in class, vaping, sometimes disappearing with friends.

I assumed he was going through a tricky stage. ‘What’s he done?’ I fretted. ‘I’m here about his internet usage,’ the social worker continued.

‘He’s been speaking to a stranger online.’ My heart dropped. I’d had experience working with children, had taken internet safety courses, so knew there had to be more to it then that.

Then my world crumbled. ‘Toby thought he was talking to a 15-year-old girl,’ he said, ‘But it was actually 44an older man.’

They’d been messaging for weeks, after meeting on social media platform Kik. Exchanged hundreds of messages. Pictures. Even videos. ‘I don’t want to hear any more,’ I cried. Didn’t want horrid details seared into my brain. Wanted to protect Toby from my knowing what he’d sent.

Imagining a grubby old man, I was stunned when the social worker told me that the man posing as a teenage girl was actually a 19-year-old called Simon Riley.

He lived in Swansea, but had been arrested while on holiday in Florida.

For possession of 20,000 indecent images, and sending explicit messages on Kik to a 13-year-old girl in North Dakota. My head spun. Were any of those images of my boy? I waited for Toby to finish school.

Let him enjoy his last day before his world came crashing down.

Watching him walk down the path that afternoon, my hands shook. His last carefree moment, my mind screamed.

The second he dropped his school bag in the hall, he could tell something was wrong.

‘Have you been talking to a girl online?’ I asked, gently, as he sat on the sofa.

He looked like he was about to deny it. Then he nodded meekly. ‘She’s not who you think,’ I said, my tears falling as I held his hand.

‘You’ve been speaking to an adult male.’

Shock and disbelief ran across his face.

And he paled as I then told him ‘I need some space,’ he choked, leaving the house and cycling off on his bike.

what I knew. Whatever messages, photos or videos he’d sent, it was a 19-year-old man receiving them.

I knew he needed time, but I still panicked.

Where was he going? What was he doing?

When he finally arrived back a f

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