A Dutch volleyball star was jailed for four years at Aylesbury Crown Court yesterday after pleading guilty to raping a child.
Steven Van de Velde, 21, of Cornelis De Wittlaan, Den Haag, was a potential Olympian and a well known sportsman in his home country - but his career now lies in ruins.
He had travelled to the UK from Amsterdam to meet a 12-year-old girl who he met online via Facebook approximately three to four months earlier.
Van de Velde had previously commented on a photograph on the victim’s Facebook account and they began communicating with each other on various social networking sites.
During their conversations Van de Velde told the victim he was 19 years old and she told him that she was seven years younger than him.
He also told the victim he was a volleyball player who played for his country and the victim researched this on the internet, confirming this was the person she had been speaking to on Skype.
He arrived on Saturday, 2 August 2014, and travelled to Milton Keynes to meet the girl.
During that evening he gave her alcohol before raping her near Furzton Lake. On the following day he committed further sexual offences against her at a property in Milton Keynes, before leaving for Luton Airport to travel back to the Netherlands.
On 8 January Van de Velde was extradited from the Netherlands to the UK and arrested on a first instance warrant in connection with the offences.
Speaking following the sentencing Det Con Tejinder Sidhu, said: “Van de Velde had extensive contact with the victim on social media prior to the offences being committed and was fully aware of her age.
“Despite this, Van de Velde, who was well-respected in his home country for playing volleyball at a national level, travelled to the UK with the sole purpose of meeting the victim and subsequently raped her.
“I hope today’s sentence enables the victim and her family to be able to move forward from this deeply distressing point in their lives. I also hope it acts as a deterrent to other adults who communicate inappropriately with children online.
“Thames Valley Police takes all reports of sexual offences seriously and works to provide the appropriate support to victims. If you have been a victim of a sexual offence please come forward and speak to police – you will be listened to and what you say will be dealt with sensitively.”
Adrian Foster, Chief Crown Prosecutor for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: “The victim was befriended by Steven Van De Velde via social media, mainly Skype, Facebook and Snap Chat. After a few months of chatting almost every day, Van De Velde travelled to the UK from Holland on 2 August 2014, and raped the young girl before travelling home again on 3 August 2014. She trusted him and believed he loved her, but, due to her age, was in absolutely no position to give true and free consent to the sexual acts.
“The convictions and today’s sentence serve as an important message to people who have been the victim of crimes such as these, or those that know such crimes are being committed, that they should come forward so that the attackers can be brought to justice and others can be saved from the horrific ordeal of abuse. The CPS will work closely with partners, as we did with Thames Valley Police in this case, to ensure that robust criminal cases are put before the courts.
“The emotional impact on the victim and her family of the abhorrent actions of this man is impossible to quantify. I hope that the convictions and today’s sentence gives some small comfort to them. Our thoughts are very much with them all at this time.”