How mum caught online teen predator
A serial predator who groomed girls as young as 12 on social media can be seen smirking and joking as he tries to justify his disturbing crimes in a confession to police.
Ashley Willats' behaviour eventually escalated to blackmail, threats to kill, and false imprisonment and he was jailed for four years and eight months.
One of his victims Jodie Mayhew was just 15 when she was first approached online by the British national, who was 20 at the time and used a fake name to chat up young girls on social media.
Living in Wyndham Vale, Victoria, Willats messaged Jodie out of the blue to ask if she needed support.
Speaking on A Current Affair, Jodie, now aged 20, said the man behind the messages, who claimed to be 18, appeared "quite caring" and they began speaking nearly every day.
"He made me feel special," she said. "Growing up, I didn't have many friends. I was always bullied, you know.
"All he wants to do is treat me like a princess, and as a child. and that's all I've ever wanted.
"I thought I was invincible to the dangers on Facebook. My parents have always warned us on social media. At 15, I thought I could do anything."
They began exchanging pictures and, initially, the photos he sent through were playful, depicting images such as his face obscured by his black cat.
Soon, he started sending explicit images - including of him naked in mirror and of his erect penis. He asked to Jodie to send nude images back, which she did.
This came just two weeks after they started chatting, but Jodie told A Current Affair, this didn't seem out-of-the-ordinary because "lots of boys ask for that".
Willats then used these pictures in an attempt to blackmail both her and later her cousin Jess Petch.
In a police interview, in which he admits grooming young girls, Willats can be seen trying to justify his actions - blaming his victims for sending him pictures and saying "that's just how it is".
"Tell me what were you thinking about the fact that she was 15?" the police officer in footage can be heard asking. "Were you questioning that at all?"
"I was, but in Melton (the Melbourne suburb) that's how it is," he said. "Especially in Melton South, you know it's not a great area, yeah?
"And, even in Werribee and stuff, and girls at that age, that's what they do. I've heard of people younger doing stuff. And that's just normal for them. Girls grow up fast."
He can be seen smirking went on to say one of his victims from Frankston "enjoys that sort of stuff (being threatened)" because he claims the girls in that suburb are "feral".
He then moved on specifics about his threats to Jodie and Jess.
"I threatened her, I did," he said. "All I wanted was an answer. I wanted to get attention."
Detective Senior Sergeant Brett Kahan said it was as if Willats was proud of his crimes.
"When you speak to him and you hear him speak about the offences that he committed, it's like there's a form of pride in what he's done," Det Sr Sgt Kahan said.
"There's just complete admission to the crimes."
Willats was only brought to police attention after Jess's mum, Annie, looked at the conversations Willats had with her daughter over Facebook Messenger. She then poked around his Facebook account, noting that all his "friends" were very young girls.
A post on a local Facebook community group named Willats via the alias Ashley Percy and warned young girls he was a predator.
Along with Jodie's parents, Annie went to the police.
Initially, law enforcement did not respond as she hoped, instead urging Jess and Jodie to: "Just block him. Don't worry about it. It happens all the time."
Annie told A Current Affair she tried for or five times to alert police to the dangers before she was finally listened to.
He had contact with underage girls, many of whom were troubled and in state care. Willats frequently sent explicit imagery to these girls, requesting similar images in return.
Disturbingly, he was bailed over the offences against Jodie and Jess, and then went on to make death threats towards another victim who he false imprisoned and burgled.
He was bailed again for that, and within five days he made hundreds of calls and texts, harassing another victim.
After years of waiting, Willats was finally sentenced on May 28, 2018 in the County Court in Melbourne.
He was found guilty of numerous State and Commonwealth offences against at least 11 victims. The youngest female target of his sexual advances was just 12 years old.
He was given a global sentence of four years and eight months and is due for release from prison in November 2021.
Willats' convictions include: using the internet to procure a child for sexual activity, producing and transmitting child pornography, stalking, online harassment, distributing intimate images, making a threat to kill, false imprisonment, burglary and theft and possession of prohibited weapons.
It's understood the UK citizen's visa will be revoked when he is released.