A wife who installed a hidden camera in her husband’s office in a bid to catch him cheating on her was horrified when the footage revealed he was grooming a teenage girl.
Anthony Merrikin was jailed for six years after he was caught in the act by his suspicious spouse who initially feared he was having an extra-marital affair.
The 42-year-old builder of Blundell Avenue, Cleethorpes, admitted three offences of sexual activity with a child and another of causing a child to engage in sexual activity.
Jeremy Evans, prosecuting, told Grimsby Crown Court that Merrikin, who had set up a charity with his wife and was a member of a marching band, groomed the teenage girl and there was sexual behaviour between them in his office.
Merrikin’s wife suspected that he was cheating on her with another woman and set up a hidden camera in his office.
But to her “shock and dismay” it revealed that he was sexually involved with the girl. She confronted him with a text message image from the filming and he immediately confessed.
“At the heart of this, he deceived his family,” said Mr Evans.
The girl later said: “Throughout this time, I just felt that I was worthless. I felt that I was dirty.
“I felt horrible for deceiving my mother.
“I am living in constant fear that something is going to happen.
“At the time this was happening with Tony, I felt trapped and scared. I know what was happening with Tony was wrong.”
She felt it hard to concentrate at school but it was also an escape.
“I struggle to think about what has happened,” said the girl.
“I cry a lot. It hurts a lot. I try not to think about Tony because it brings back bad memories.
“I still think about what happened every day.”
Merrikin had no previous convictions.
Robert Underwood, mitigating, said that Merrikin pleaded guilty at an early stage and had shown remorse.
His behaviour was “entirely wrong and inappropriate” .
Merrikin had previously set up Memory Mascots, a charity which provided costumed characters at events, and raised over £30,000 for good causes.
He gave up work after the matters came to light and his house was due to be sold.
“It was a moment of madness,” said Mr Underwood.
“It was madness to become involved in these circumstances.”
Judge John Thackray QC told Merrikin: “These are very serious sexual offences against a child.”
Merrikin, formerly of Bentley Street, Cleethorpes, was jailed for six years and nine months. He was given an indefinite sexual harm prevention order and must register as a sex offender indefinitely.