A Co Antrim man was convicted today of twice abducting a schoolgirl found hiding in his attic.
Dale Walsh was warned he could be jailed for having held the 14-year-old against her father’s wishes on consecutive nights.
Belfast Magistrates’ Court heard police also discovered the girl in her underwear after breaking down a locked bedroom door.
Walsh, of Mulderg Drive in Newtownabbey, was released on bail to return for sentencing next month.
The 19-year-old defendant contested two charges of child abduction, claiming that he never detained the girl.
He had been arrested for the offences on New Year’s Day.
Prior to both incidents the court was told how the alleged victim and her 10-year-old brother both spent a night away from home.
In evidence their father said he believed they had gone for a sleep-over at the home of his daughter’s friend.
He said he spoke to a man on the phone, believing it was the friend’s father, before allowing them to go.
His daughter then went missing for the first time on December 31 last year.
The father recalled going out searching for her, with his young son directing him to the address they had previously stayed at.
Walsh answered but denied his daughter was inside and vowed to go looking for her, the court heard.
Eventually the girl was located and returned home early the next morning.
The PSNI officer who discovered her said he had gone to Walsh’s flat and found a bedroom door locked.
At first the defendant claimed it was used by his brother, but eventually agreed to let police force it open.
The officer said he found the girl inside, dressed in her underwear.
He also confirmed the door had been locked from the inside.
Police were alerted again on January 1 when the girl went missing for a second time, this time with her dog.
Another constable told the court he went back to Walsh’s apartment and found the animal there.
According to that officer the accused repeatedly denied the girl was there.
But he said he used a set up ladders to get up into the attic and located the child hiding between rafters.
Defence barrister Richard McConkey claimed there was no evidence his client held the girl against her will on either occasion.
He accepted the case appeared “extremely unsavoury”, but contended that the child locked herself in the bedroom and hid out herself in the roof space.
During the hearing District Judge George Conner noted the girl did not see herself as a victim.
But convicting Walsh on Thursday, Mr Conner said: “I’m satisfied that both offences are made out.
“The child was being held against the will of a parent.”
Adjourning for sentencing, the judge told Walsh: “Whilst you are quite right to anticipate this could well be dealt with by way of custody, I would like to know more about the general background.” ends