London: A man killed himself just days after he was confronted by a controversial “paedophile hunter” and accused of grooming a 14-year-old girl over the internet.
MPs last night called for an inquiry after self-styled web vigilante Keiren Parsons — who poses as teenage girls online to entrap men — boasted of close links to police.
Father-of-one Michael Parkes, from Daventry, Northamptonshire, was found hanged three days after being exposed by Parsons, aka Stinson Hunter, and his group. The warehouse manager, 46, had been arrested on suspicion of attempted grooming and released on bail after a video of the confrontation was posted on Facebook.
Although police insist Parsons has been repeatedly asked to stop his undercover activity, he claims he has been “encouraged and coached” by officers from Warwickshire Constabulary. The force admits he has spoken to its officers more than 30 times in the past year.
Keith Vaz, chairman of the influential Home Affairs Select Committee, last night called for an inquiry. “This is a most disturbing case which raises serious questions,” he said.
“There should be a full inquiry into the claims that Mr Parsons has acted with the encouragement of some police officers.
“Individuals should never take the law into their own hands.”
Parkes’s former partner — the mother of his 15-month-old son — claimed the internet exposure had led directly to his death last June, and said she strongly suspected that Parsons had been given “advice and training” by police.
She hopes the coroner at Parkes’s inquest on Wednesday will call for an inquiry into the alleged relationship between Parsons and the police. “There are no excuses for what Michael did — going on to a dating website and arranging to meet a 14-year-old is truly appalling and I will never forgive him for that,” said the 37-year-old woman, who did not want to give her name.
“But Parsons has to be stopped before he drives another man to such despair that he does what Michael did. We have a justice system in this country and Michael deserved an opportunity to defend himself in a court of law.
“Parsons justifies what he does by saying he is protecting children. He isn’t. He is protecting fictional children. My child is real and he is now growing up without a dad and Parsons is responsible.
“I can’t believe he uses this method of confronting men without some kind of legal advice, compliance or training from the police.”
Parsons, 32, who served a custodial sentence for arson as a teenager, has been disowned by relatives. His grandmother, who asked not to be named, said: “Keiren has caused a lot of trouble for the family. We have disowned him. When he was about 16 or 17, he ended up in prison for burning down a school.”
On his website, which collects donations via PayPal, Parsons claims to enjoy a good relationship with police officers in Warwickshire. “Numerous officers have encouraged my activities,” he says. “They have advised me on how to approach the people when meeting them, how to collate evidence.”
In January, Warwickshire Police threatened Parsons with legal action if he did not stop his activities. Assistant Chief Constable Karen Manners said he could be “compromising” investigations.
On Saturday night, a force spokesman said they would investigate claims by Parsons that officers disclosed sensitive information to him. Asked what advice he had been given, the spokesman added: “None specifically. Officers have been consistently briefed that they should offer no encouragement to him.”