A man has been charged with grooming and the sexual assault of a 13-year-old central Victorian girl.
Luke Coughlan, 41, appeared before the Bendigo Magistrates Court on Thursday. He was charged with one count of grooming a child under the age of 16 and three counts of sexual penetration of a child under 16.
Central Victoria SOCIT Detective Senior Constable Josh Coombs told the court in a summary, Coughlan was 38 years old at the time he first made contact with the 13-year-old girl.
Coughlan allegedly started randomly messaging the girl on the Kik app in 2016.
Coughlan has been charged with three counts of sexually penetrating a child under 16 in early 2017.
Coughlan allegedly had ongoing contact with the girl on other social media sites until late 2018.
Police allege during that time, Coughlan instructed the girl to follow a set of rules including continual contact, exercising for an hour a day, calling him sir or daddy, and kneeling for an hour a day.
Coughlan allegedly told the girl to keep track of her behaviour on a hand written spreadsheet.
The court heard that during a pretext phone call between Coughlan and the girl on October 14, 2019, Coughlan allegedly made admissions to the offending and alluded to the fact he knew the girl was young.
The victim told police there were allegedly five other underage girls Coughlan had been in contact with.
Police raided Coughlan's Westmeadows address on October 15, 2019. A large number of electronic material and other items were seized.
Police questioned Coughlan at the Broadmeadows Police Station. He provided no response to police questions.
Coughlan applied for a bail at the Bendigo Magistrates Court on Thursday without a lawyer present.
Police prosecutor Courtney Hughes said police were concerned Coughlan would destroy electronic evidence and contact the victim if he was released on bail.
Magistrate Michael King denied Coughlan's request.
"These allegations are serious," Dr King said. "The evidence suggests a pattern of electronic communication to groom a child for sexual conduct. The concerns of police are real. I don't believe bail conditions could restrain those concerns."
Coughlan has been remanded in custody to appear in court at a later date.
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