Ex-Dunfermline footballer Ian Heddle sexually assaulted a girl

Ian Heddle, 61, who played for the club from 1983 to 1987 and is from the city, was snared after being detained at Edinburgh Airport in February 2023 as he tried to return to the Far East.

A number of electronic devices he was carrying were seized and police discovered a sickening stash of more than 270,000 indecent photographs and videos of children.

Officers found three clips of him abusing a child – believed to be around eight years old – while she slept at an address in Chonburi, Thailand, in 2019.

His “chubby” fingers and wedding ring were caught on camera.

Heddle was a midfielder who, in addition to making 41 appearances for Dunfermline, also played for St Johnstone, Forfar Athletic and Brechin City in the 1980s and 1990s.

But he is now behind bars after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting the girl between September 26 and October 12, 2019, while he was a British national in Thailand.

First offender Heddle further admitted to two counts of indecent images and will be sentenced next month.

The former footballer had lived in Thailand while working as a crane operator for an offshore company.

The High Court in Glasgow heard how Heddle was linked to viewing and uploading child abuse material from the internet.

This is said to have been done at a property in Scotland where he stayed during a visit from Thailand.

Heddle was not there when police called, but officers received information that he was due to catch a flight at Edinburgh Airport on February 19, 2023.

He was arrested and a number of devices – including an iPhone 12, laptop and hard drive – were taken for examination.

Prosecutor Tracey Brown told the court: “He was interviewed and spoke freely. He admitted possessing indecent images of children.

“He stated that there would be thousands of images and videos on his hard drive and that they were organized into folders.”

Miss Brown said there were a total of 272,936 photos and 4,001 clips.

He initially appeared in court in connection with this, was released on bail, had his passport seized and was ordered to remain in Scotland.

Miss Brown said further checks of the phone revealed ‘contact offences’ involving Heddle and an unknown young woman.

The filmed abuse that Heddle committed was described at the hearing.

The court was told that “facial features” could not be identified.

Miss Brown added: “However, the hands were relatively plump, with hair on his fingers and he wore a distinctive wedding ring.”

Heddle was traced by police to Dunfermline in September 2023, where he worked as a road sweeper.

Miss Brown said: “During an interview he confirmed he was the person in the photos and videos who carried out the sexual assault on the child.”

The court papers listed Heddle’s last address as Lochgelly.

His QC, Brian McConnachie, said Heddle had been “co-operative” with police “from the very beginning”, wanted the court case resolved and that “there would be no trial whatsoever before May”.

He was released on bail but Judge John McCormick told him: “Your status has now changed and you are being remanded in custody.”

Heddle was also placed on the sex offender registry.

Detective Inspector Adrian Ure, from the National Child Abuse Investigations Unit, said: “We understand how painful this has been for the girl and her family. We hope that knowing he has now pleaded guilty will at least bring them some comfort.

“Police Scotland is committed to protecting children and was able to pursue Heddle under legislation that protects children around the world from sexual abuse by British nationals.

“We will continue to relentlessly pursue and proactively investigate individuals who commit these heinous crimes.

“I would also like to reassure our communities that we will investigate all reports of sexual abuse. You will be heard, and we will support you.

“I would urge anyone who has been a victim of such a crime to contact us in an emergency on 101 or 999.”