A MAN has admitted sexually abusing a schoolgirl just months before she was found dead.
Kevin Palmer was caught by a police officer committing the offences against a girl, who was aged 13, in a tent, in Sunderland, in June last year
In December, the vulnerable youngster, who had by then turned 14, was found dead in a children’s home.
Palmer, 40, who was originally accused of rape, appeared at Newcastle Crown Court yesterday for trial.
Prosecutors made a special application for his victim’s video statement to be played to jurors.
Palmer’s defence team objected on the basis he could not have a fair trial if the footage was allowed to be used as evidence.
After hearing legal argument, Judge Penny Moreland ruled the girl’s video statement should be heard.
But before a jury was sworn in, Palmer pleaded guilty to engaging in sexual activity in the presence of the girl and causing or inciting her to engage in sexual activity.
The maximum penalty he faces is 14 years behind bars.
Prosecutor Robert Woodcock QC told the court: “There are aggravating features to each of the offences.
“She was just 13 years of age and must have been known to the defendant as a vulnerable child.”
As a result of the guilty pleas, prosecutors dropped the more serious rape charge.
Mr Woodcock said he had explained the process to the girl’s grieving family, who accepted the decision “with dignity but some degree of resignation”.
Palmer, of no fixed address in Sunderland, will be sentenced on June 6.
Judge Moreland remanded him in custody in the meantime and warned: “This case will inevitably lead to an immediate custodial sentence.”
The girl, from Sunderland, was found dead at East Farmhouse home in County Durham last December.