A DAD whose teenage daughter travelled hundreds of miles to have sex in a tent with a man who allegedly groomed her online frantically scoured the streets, fearing he would never see her alive again, a court has heard.
The 14-year-old’s desperate father drove from northern Scotland to Hartlepool trying to find his daughter and knocked on doors, asked postmen and searched coastal paths in the hours before she was located.
A police helicopter tracked down Sean Clode, 21, and the girl, in a black tent he had pitched in dunes at Crimdon Dene, on May 25, the day after she went missing.
Clode, of Glamis Walk, Hartlepool, is on trial at Teesside Crown Court, where he denies sexual grooming, abducting a child and two counts of sexual activity with a child.
In a statement to police, the father, who cannot be named to protect his daughter’s identity, said he feared he would never see his daughter again after she vanished - having told her parents she was going to a sleep-over at a friend’s house.
The teenager missed school that Friday morning and instead took a train to Hartlepool to be with Clode, with whom she had been chatting for months over the internet.
When the alarm was raised that evening, friends told her worried parents that she may be in Edinburgh, so her father set off to the capital to look for her.
Later, police traced her phone to the Hartlepool area, so her father drove through the night to the North East.
In a statement read to the jury, he said: “At this point I was becoming increasingly concerned and anxious and decided to drive down to Hartlepool.
“As I got to Hartlepool it was first light and I spent an hour walking around the docks and a picnic area.
“After not much luck and beside myself with worry I attended Hartlepool police station.”
He charged his phone at the station and continued his search.
“During my frantic attempts to locate my daughter, I leafed through the local phone book, walked along sections of the coastline, knocked on doors and spoke to postmen.”
Finally, he got word the police had found her at around 2pm.
“I cannot express how much of a relief it was,” he said.
“I was becoming increasingly concerned I wouldn’t see (her) alive again.
“No words can explain how traumatic and upsetting this whole experience has been for me and my family.”
The jury was shown footage taken from the police helicopter of a dark tent pitched in dunes, and then Clode getting out and putting his trainers on.
The girl told police the next day in a recorded interview that she had sex several times that night with Clode in the tent.
But the following month she changed her story and said no sex had taken place.
The prosecution claimed she altered her account out of “misplaced loyalty” or embarrassment.
The defence denies any sexual activity took place between the pair.
The trial continues.