A SWINDON man accused of forcing a teen to send him sexually explicit images claimed that he had never seen the password-protected section of his phone that the messages were sent from.
Trevor Fernandes claimed in an interview with detectives from the National Crime Agency that the encrypted Knox partition was “not my account” and he had never seen them before.
Several messages forcing the teenage girl, from Texas, to strip naked and send photographs and videos of her performing sexual acts on herself, her baby sister and her dog were sent from that partition. The sender threatened to send explicit images to her contacts if she did not.
Prosecutors claim that Fernandes is the sender.
He is currently standing trial accused of 16 charges – seven of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity and nine of making indecent photographs of a child.
On Monday, jurors were told that officers from the NCA interviewed the 37-year-old on December 6, 2020 – the day they seized his Samsung Galaxy phone and laptop from his basement bedroom at his brother’s house on Dixon Street.
In the interview, he was asked whether he was the person who had been sending messages in which the girl was forced to call the sender ‘master’ or ‘master Trevor’, and then demanded proof she was complying with his instructions on the command “check”.
He replied: “No, I never, I would never do that. I talked to a lot of people but that’s extreme.”
He was told by officers who seized his phone they had seen notifications from Snapchat, despite it apparently not being installed. When they clicked onto the notification, the officers said they were taken to a sign-in screen for Knox, an encrypted partition where the app was found.
“He was shown the Knox lockscreen and he said ‘that’s not my account’,” prosecutor Daniel Sawyer told the court.
“Mr Fernandes denied ever seeing the notifications or the Knox screen.
“It was suggested to Mr Fernandes that he had used the apps hidden within Knox to send the messages.”
But Mr Fernandes replied in interview: “But what if somebody has done it or hacked or something and it is there and I did not even know about it?”
He was asked whether anybody had the opportunity to install those apps onto his phone.
“Not for so long. When has somebody had a chance?
“Why would they do that? Sometimes at work I give my phone for charge but it’s always there in front of me or even if I am gone it is for like five minutes, two minutes, three minutes, one minute and I always come back for my phone.”
Fernandes claims that his phone was hacked, and that whoever had control of his device set-up Knox, installed Snapchat and Kik, and sent the messages used to extort the teenager.
But last week, experts said that there was no evidence this happened, and even if it was possible, only hackers working for hostile states such as Russia and China would have the skillset to pull this off.
The trial continues. Fernandes denies all charges.