A MAN had sex with a “vulnerable” teenage girl after explicit conversations online, a court heard as his trial begun.

Michael Tonge, 35, of Leamington Road, Southend, allegedly took part in a series of sexual acts with the child, the jury at Basildon Crown Court was told yesterday.

He is standing trial after denying charges of sexual activity with a child, engaging in sexual communication with a child and making indecent photographs of a child.

Prosecuting, Diana Pigot, said: “In 2019 they started to get close and chat online. The girl became fond of him and said he made her feel special.

“The messages had sexual overtones which developed into physical sexual acts and it’s clear she had great affection for him.

“We say he did not force her into sexual activity but if it did happen it was unlawful and he knew her age.

“She was vulnerable and initially denied any sexual activity but then claimed he had raped her and admitted the sex acts. A man saw the pair in Priory Park, Southend and her sitting on his lap and the man called the police.

“This was in February last year and Tonge was arrested and taken to Southend Police Station.”

Ms Pigot told the court there had been hundreds of messages between the pair and that after his arrest Tonge told police his “belt was loose but he didn’t know why” on the day they were seen in Priory Park.

She added that the defendant claimed nothing happened that day and they were “play fighting and messing about”.

Speaking to the jury she said: “He said nothing had ever happened but he said the chats were dirty. The girl told police she had a teenage crush on him.

“She also said initially said it was just dirty messages but they had never had any sexual activity.

“She also told police she’d sent him pictures of herself undressed and that she went to the park with a friend.

“The girl later admitted sexual activity and that she didn’t like it. She told police she thought they were in a relationship and she felt special.”

The barrister told the court that the girl wanted to protect the man because he flattered her.

The trial continues.

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