Newry man whose Snapchat threats caused death of girl in horror ‘catfishing’ case

Who is the Armagh man at the centre of the world’s largest ‘catfishing’ investigation

Listen | 18:06

When it was put to Alexander McCartney that he had, in the words of the Belfast court, “unlawfully killed a female child”, the 26-year-old from Northern Ireland pleaded guilty. That child was just 12 years-old, she lived outside the UK and McCartney had never even met her but, through what the judge described as the worst case of “catfishing” every to come before the courts, his online coercian and blackmail of the child drove her to take her own life. Her parents didn’t know the reason until local police, alerted by the PSNI who were investigating McCartney’s vile activities, knocked on their door.

McCartney was a prolific cyber child abuser - he has admitted multiple offences of causing a child to engage in a sex act, causing a child to engage in sexual activity and sexual communication with a child. The former university student from Newry also admitted over 50 charges of blackmail and multiple offences of possessing indecent images of children.

There are over 60 victims from as far afield as the United States and New Zealand, but also children in the UK and Ireland, many of whom were contacted via Snapchat.

He will be sentenced in May. Irish Times Northern Correspondent Seanín Graham talks to Bernice Harrison about how the global ‘catfishing’ investigation led police to McCartney’s house in rural Armagh.


Produced by Suzanne Brennan

Bernice Harrison

Bernice Harrison

Bernice Harrison is an Irish Times journalist and cohost of In the News podcast