AN American military police officer has been jailed for 15 years following an international investigation into the grooming of a 12-year-old from Trowbridge.

Christopher Ernest Fox, who was aged 19 at the time of the offence, appeared at the State of Hawaii Federal Court on July 30 to be sentenced.

It followed a lengthy joint investigation by Wiltshire Police’s CID, based at Melksham, the Homeland Security Investigation Department of Hawaii and the District Attorney’s Office of Hawaii.

It began in November 2015 when the youngster reported to Wiltshire Police that she had been groomed online and coerced into sending nude photographs.

She provided a detailed video-recorded interview, in which she was able to identify her abuser as Fox.

She submitted various items for forensic analysis, which allowed Special Agent In Charge, Siave Iafeta to obtain an arrest and search warrant for Fox at his address at Schofield Barracks, Waikiki.

Fox was found in possession of the indecent images of the young girl and images of extreme child pornography on his computer devices.

He admitted to his crimes at the time of his interview and was remanded in custody and immediately discharged from the US Army.

Fox was sentenced to a mandatory minimum of 15 years in jail, with a further 10 years of strict sanctions to be followed after release.

Det Con Martyn Cole, from Melksham CID, who travelled to Hawaii as part of the investigation, welcomed the sentence.

He said: “This was a very unusual case due to the geographic distance between the abuser and his victim.

“However, it proves that we will not let these hurdles dissuade us from pursuing justice and that with good international working relationships between law enforcement agencies, we will make sure these types of criminals are tracked down and punished.

“I would also like to applaud the bravery of the young victim, who has shown strength and courage beyond her years.

“We hope this case will encourage others who have been targeted and abused in this way to come forward and report it to the police.”

Wiltshire Police takes all reports of sexual abuse extremely seriously and will always seek to obtain justice for victims and ensure they are provided with the support they need.

Victims are encouraged to contact police on 101, or call 999 in an emergency, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

They can also seek support and counselling from the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) based at the New Swindon Sanctuary - they can be contacted on the 24-hour helpline 0808 168 0024.

The police would encourage everyone, including parents and their children, to look at their website for advice on staying safe online