Durham post-grad student jailed for grooming 13-year-old girl with autism

Sitikantha Mohanty, 50, was on a student visa studying business administration

A Durham post-grad student has been jailed for grooming an autistic 13-year-old girl.

Sitikantha Mohanty, a 50-year-old business administration student, has been jailed for 20 months for meeting with a girl he “befriended” and sexually groomed over an exchange of 1,251 messages, Chronicle Live reports.

Mohanty, on a student visa from India, was studying for his masters degree in business administration when he approached and asked for the number of a 13-year-old girl outside of a Lidl in County Durham.

Upon giving Mohanty her number, the victim was harassed over a two week period with messages calling the girl “beautiful and charming”, asking the victim for photos and offering to play hide and seek with her in the park.

The two met on several occasions, and a neighbour reported seeing Mohanty following the girl in court. The victim was said to have rarely responded to him other than to call him “scary and creepy” and to turn down his insistent requests. These included a dinner invite and an invitation to his home while he was naked so she could “see him that way”.

Mohanty was jailed for 20 months with both a 10 year restraining order and a 10 year sexual harm prevention order being made. Additionally, Mohanty risks being deported and losing his employment at a government agency following his conviction.

During an interview, the defendant claimed to have committed no offence, and that he had no sexual intentions, despite describing the victim as having a “well-balanced figure”, deleting his own messages from her phone and telling her she could consider him as her boyfriend. Mohanty showed clear awareness of their age gap of over 30 years and was never in contact with the victim’s parents.

After thorough investigation of the exchanged messages, Judge Jo Kidd rejected the suggestion that it was the child that befriend Mohanty.

Kidd said about Mohanty “he’s the person who instigates the possibility of them meeting” and that “the grooming of her was gradual and set to gain her trust and [Mohanty] began to include sexual matters”.

Kidd also describes the case as a “sophisticated grooming of a particularly vulnerable teenage girl” who has been reported by her mother to be on the autism spectrum.

Defence lawyer, Tony Davis stated Mohanty has no previous convictions, saying he “is educated to a very high standard” and had, during his master’s degree, lived an isolated existence, particularly due to his wife remaining in India and his parents’ recent passing. He goes on to note that the “befriending” was a “chance meeting” which developed into a “terrible mistake” that the defendant struggled to admit was dysfunctional to his own lawyers.

Having now travelled to the UK, Mohanty’s wife is said to have been shocked, but according to Mr Davis, she “is at pains to point out that her husband is largely a gregarious individual who would speak to anyone”.

The victim’s mother has stated that her daughter has now been prescribed PTSD medication and suffers from mental health issues including flashbacks and self-harm.

According to Mr Davis, the defendant has apologised to the victim’s parents for the harm he has caused their daughter. The victim’s mother has stated that Mohanty has ruined her daughter’s life.

Featured image via Durham Constabulary. 

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