Douglas Macdonald: South Yorkshire Police officer posed as modelling agent on Instagram to approach children

A South Yorkshire Police officer posed as a modelling agent on Instagram to approach children online, and engaged in a two-year online sexual 'relationship' with a 14-year-old girl, a misconduct hearing was told.
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Miss A was vulnerable, unhappy at school and had a background of self-harming when she and Douglas Macdonald, aged 37, began communicating.

A police officer posed as a modelling agent on Instagram to approach children onlineA police officer posed as a modelling agent on Instagram to approach children online
A police officer posed as a modelling agent on Instagram to approach children online

The disgraced cop resigned from his post ahead of a South Yorkshire Police misconduct hearing held yesterday, which he opted against attending.

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Nine allegations he faced were proven and found to have amounted to 'gross misconduct'. The misconduct panel's decision was that if Macdonald had still been serving, he would have been dismissed. His details have now been added to the College of Policing's 'barred' list.

During the misconduct hearing, it emerged that the cop first approached Miss A online in May 2017, and subsequently exchanged sexual and nude photographs with her and showed her "forceful" pornography.

The following year, she ran away from her home and, "in a twist of fate", was picked up in a police car by Macdonald, who had been assigned the missing person case, and saw her in person for the first time that day.

It was claimed the ex-cop had an "established process" he deployed to make contact with children, where he set up Instagram pages which purported to be modeling pages.

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Having drawn them in, he moved the conversation over to Snapchat because he felt it provided "a more secure platform from which he (could) have conversations with children and adolescents".

Daniel Hobbs, counsel for South Yorkshire Police's professional standards department head, Detective Superintendent Delphine Waring, said: "If there was ever a time to draw back, it was now, and he doesn’t. The evidence shows the online sexual relationship doesn't stop.

"Fired up from the day's events, on that very evening, the former officer contacted Miss A and, on video call over Snapchat, showed her the pornographic video he was watching while he was m***********."

He went on to explain the graphic nature of Macdonald's communication with Miss A, including him asking the teenage girl "if she ever looked at older men and wanted to f*** them".

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Macdonald said, when interviewed by police, that he couldn't remember how he knew that she was over 18, simply saying: "I believe she would have told me," which Mr Hobbs described as a "lacklustre denial. 

Mr Hobbs said: “Miss A sent pictures to him over Instagram that included her full face. In the highly unlikely event that he thought he was communicating with someone over 18, that policy of ignorance cannot be continued beyond (the time she was reported missing)"

Macdonald was alleged to have a "clear sexual interest" in children and adolescents, with almost 1,000 images of young girls in bikinis or underwear found on his Instagram cache upon his arrest in November 2020.

The hearing was told that a video Macdonald showed Miss A featured a woman with pigtails. He had also previously told the not to wear makeup so she looked more "natural".

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Miss A said in an interview with police: "He said that when I am 16 he is going to have sex with me, so he kept messaging me. I genuinely thought we were in a relationship and that when I was an adult, we would be together."

Throughout the period when the pair were in contact - May 2017 until August 2019 - Macdonald was between the ages of 30 and 32, and Miss A between 14 and 16.

At the age of 16, she reported Macdonald to Crimestoppers.

After she told him, Macdonald threatened to kill himself if she did not retract the report and blocked her, leaving her "picking up the pieces," it was claimed.

Mr Hobbs said: "His contrary account was, 'I don’t recall saying that'. His neck was on the line. He had everything to gain by getting her to retract that statement. He stopped a legitimate investigation. 

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"The former officer’s account leaves more questions than it provides answers. It is ambiguous. The officer could have come here today and explained what happened, but he has chosen not to."

Macdonald’s response, described as "brisk" by Mr Hobbs, stated: "I don't wish to attend the upcoming hearing. I don't wish to defend the allegations made against me regardless of my belief in them."

He resigned from South Yorkshire Police on December 31, 2022, after eight years of service with the force.

South Yorkshire Police confirmed Macdonald was never charged by the force following its investigation. The Crown Prosecution Services decides whether to prosecute.