Wigan’s sporting community has been left in shock after a volunteer cricket coach was apprehended by an online paedophile sting group for sending lewd pictures to a “teenage” girl.
Chris Ashford, 40, pleaded guilty to "inciting a girl aged 13" to engage in sexual activity of a "non-penetrative nature" at Wigan Magistrates’ Court.
The dad-of-two, who lives on Davy Road in Abram, was collared by members of the Dark Light group at the Spring View Cricket Club in Platt Bridge.
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Footage, which went viral on social media, shows Ashford - who is originally from South Africa - admit to a "moment of stupidity" when engaging with a hunter who he believed to be a 13-year-old girl.
A man behind the camera can be heard telling Ashford that he has been caught out in a joint sting between Dark Light and another paedophile hunting group “Team Impact”.
"The children he believes he has been speaking to are actually adults," says the anonymous voice.
"There’s no entrapment involved because in the first point of the conversation he has been told that they are 13."
The man said Ashford had made reference to school and had sent intimate pictures of himself and videos of lewd acts being performed.
Ashford can then be seen agreeing to the accusations, explaining "it was out of stupidity."
After being told he is going to be arrested by police officers, who have been called and are on their way throughout the duration of the footage, Ashford says: "Really? I haven’t done anything."
The pair are quickly joined by Spring View Cricket Club’s child welfare officer, who attempts to keep the situation calm by asking Ashford to wait for the police and telling him he does not have to speak to the citizens’ group.
But the conversation continues for another 40 minutes in which time, the increasingly panicked man attempts to explain his actions.
"I am trying to be open and honest," he says at one point throughout the interview, which was broadcast live across the internet.
"In the context of these messages I was extremely naughty and I wasn’t thinking straight.
"It’s just stupidity. I have admitted to that. I was being stupid. I have never touched a child in any way like that."
A short while later officers arrive and take Ashford for questioning, following which he was charged.
Ashford will appear in Bolton Crown Court on July 2 for sentencing. He is not allowed to use any device capable of accessing the internet and is not allowed unsupervised contact with any child under the age of 16.
Wiganers took to social media to convey their concerns.
One woman said: "That’s on our doorstep. Keep an eye on your kids."
A Wigan mum added: "Just five minutes away. My lad played cricket here, very worrying."
Another said: "So glad you caught him my son’s team would play there and they have a few girls in the team."
When approached for comment, Spring View Cricket Club said that they had been "advised by police" not to speak to the media.