Thirroul sex offender James Gray Harford pleads guilty to procure charge over lewd interaction with 14-year-old girl

A Thirroul sex offender previously jailed for attempting to rape two women in separate acts has confessed to further predatory behaviour towards an Illawarra teenager he contacted at random.

James Grey Harford told police he first spoke to the 14-year-old girl after dialing multiple random phone numbers in the early hours of May 28 this year until a female answered.

Harford initially told the girl he was a “guy from school” before saying she was beautiful. He terminated the call when he heard the girl’s boyfriend in the background.

Harford contacted the teen again the next evening, prompting the girl to merge the call with a phone conversation she was having with her boyfriend. Harford hung up as soon as he realised the other male was listening.

However, the 32-year-old sent the girl text messages later that evening claiming he was in the army and telling her “I’m a man, so do you like men?”

The teen said she realised then that Harford was a stranger and not a fellow student.

Harford phoned the woman again on the evening of May 30 and asked her where she lived, before making a series of sexually suggestive comments towards her including telling her “I want to f—k you”.

The teen’s boyfriend suggested they organise to meet with Harford to “take matters into their own hands”.

A meeting was arranged for 4.30pm the next day at Gibson Park in Thirroul, however Harford didn’t show. He contacted the teen at 6pm that night and asked her to walk to Thirroul train station.

The girl told police she and her boyfriend watched from afar as Harford made his way towards the station.

The teen disclosed the incident to her mother, who immediately took her to Wollongong police station to make a statement.

Harford was arrested the following day. During an interview with police he claimed he had no memory of his contact with the girl, saying he’d been drinking between six and eight litres of wine a day for the past week.

However, he admitted to committing similar offences in the past, saying he often phoned his victims at random and spoke to them in a “creepy voice”, asking what they were wearing while he pleasured himself.

“He told police he has a problem and needs help,” officers wrote in agreed facts tendered in court.

Harford was charged with one count of procuring a child under 16 years for unlawful sexual activity, to which he pleaded guilty last week.

He was remanded in custody to face Wollongong District Court on September 22, when a date will be set for sentencing.