Richard Michael Espray, 44, groomed a 13-year-old girl via text message.
Richard Michael Espray, 44, groomed a 13-year-old girl via text message. Graphic

'Manipulative' child sex offender to be released in months

A 44-YEAR-OLD sex offender who groomed and abducted a 13-year-old girl will walk free from jail in less than four months.

Richard Michael Espray pleaded guilty in the Maroochydore District Court on June 23 to six charges including abduction, indecent treatment of a child and grooming.

His sentence was part-heard last week and finalised today.

The prominent Sunshine Coast real estate agent took an interest in the girl when she was 12, following the breakdown of his marriage.

By the time the child was 13 the pair were exchanging text messages indicating the relationship had developed romantically.

On several occasions Espray asked the girl to send photos of her breasts and genitals, which she did.

Espray also sent photos of his penis to the child using photo sharing app Snapchat.

 

Sunshine Coast businessman Richard Michael Espray is facing multiple charges related to the alleged abuse and abduction of a teenage girl.
Sunshine Coast businessman Richard Michael Espray.

The offending became evident when the girl's father saw text messages and a note written by Espray in 2016, the court heard.

In one text message Espray told the girl, "There's no need to tell anyone... for your sake as well as mine" and in another he said, "I don't care you're 13".

Espray initially denied allegations to police but continued to pursue the girl even though her father had taken her overseas.

During a heated disagreement while the girl was overseas Espray wrote to her, "I've fallen in love with you, I'm f---ing crazy about you".

When she returned to Australia police found the pair in a hotel room at Mooloolaba.

The court heard Espray was difficult during the investigation and breached his bail by contacting the girl upwards of 400 times and meeting with her at a car rally.

Judge Long said Espray's manipulative pursuit of the girl was to satisfy his own sexual desires.

He said Espray took advantage of the young girl.

Judge Long said Espray's separation from his wife did not explain or excuse his pursuit of the child.

Espray will serve 11 months of a two-year, three month head sentence behind bars, taking into the account the 226 days he already spent.

He will also have to complete a sex offenders treatment program.