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Man ‘collared’ by police in Auckland Airport departure lounge after relationship with Nelson 13-year-old

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The 24-year-old in a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old was caught in the departure lounge at Auckland International Airport, about to board a flight to China. Photo / Richard Robinson

The parents of a young teenage girl have spoken of the “incalculable damage” done to their family by a man who “lulled her into a sexual trap”.

Kwan Loong Lee, who was 24 at the time of his arrest last May, was caught in the departure lounge at Auckland International Airport as he was about to board a flight to China.

Today Lee was slumped in the dock, his head hung low, his eyes closed, as he was sentenced to nine months of home detention in the Nelson District Court.

He was now also a registered sex offender having been convicted on two charges of sexual connection with a young person aged 12 to 16.

Lee and the victim had embarked on what was described in the summary of facts as a consensual sexual relationship for about two months before the victim’s parents found out and the police were notified.

“He was collared trying to do a runner,” Crown prosecutor Jeremy Cameron said.

Sentencing began with a tear-stained reading from the victim’s father about the impact on the family, whom he loved with “every fibre of [his] being”.

“To find out my 13-year-old daughter had been groomed was devastating.”

The father said his daughter’s innocence was violated by a 24-year-old man they had come to know as “Nicholas” and that he struggled with how to solve the problem without pushing his daughter away, who considered [the offender] “the love of her life”.

“I cry myself to sleep, I blame myself for being a bad parent. I imagine her running away with ‘Nicholas’,” the victim’s father said.

The victim’s mother said in a statement read on her behalf by the Crown, that the family had immigrated to New Zealand thinking they would be safe from harm.

She said the repercussions would last a long time, and that the relationship she had shared with her daughter had been fundamentally changed.

“Our daughter was led into a sexual trap by this young man, ‘Nicholas’.

“Once a cup is dropped and broken it can never be put back the same,” the victim’s mother said.

After the pair met in 2022 they began communicating, leading to a total of 7093 messages found by police on the victim’s phone, from April 28 until May 26 last year.

Police said Lee was “clearly aware” the victim was school-aged because the word “school” was featured in the messaging 55 times.

Late at night on May 1 last year, Lee messaged the victim to say he was threatened with being reported to the police for paedophilia because he was “dating a minor”.

Later that night they met in Lee’s vehicle and had intercourse.

In the early hours of May 25, they met up again.

The victim became concerned she could become pregnant and told her school counsellor, who notified her parents, who then went to the police.

Later that day, the victim sent Lee the message: “My Dad found out and he wants to go to the police so u better stay away from me and our house”.

Lee didn’t respond but on May 31 he was arrested at the Auckland International Airport.

“He was in the departure lounge, after checking in, five days after police had informed him of the alleged offending,” Cameron said.

He said it was pre-meditated offending that involved grooming by a man 11 years older than the victim and that had persisted over time.

Lee’s lawyer Jackie Van Schalkwyk said Lee knew what he had done was wrong, that the charges were serious and that he understood the harm caused to the victim and her parents, for which he was “deeply sorry”.

Judge Tony Zohrab said he had gone into what he described as a “legally abusive relationship” with his eyes open, but Van Schalkwyk said his decision-making had been coloured by a past that was too sensitive to reveal in open court.

Judge Zohrab said the victims’ statements underscored the problems created by the offender’s selfish behaviour, and it was a fair assessment that the harm caused was incalculable.

He said the parents had been placed in a conflicted situation because of the need to help their daughter, who was too young to understand or cope with what was happening.

Lee was given credit for his early guilty pleas, and for factors in his adolescent life that might have contributed to his behaviour but his claim of remorse was dampened by his attempt to leave the country.

Lee was also ordered to pay $3000 in emotional harm reparation, half of which was to be paid up-front and the balance over time.

Tracy Neal is a Nelson-based Open Justice reporter at NZME. She was previously RNZ’s regional reporter in Nelson-Marlborough and has covered general news, including court and local government for the Nelson Mail.

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