An ex-Scottish football star who played for several SPFL clubs filmed himself sexually abusing a child in Thailand

A FORMER Scottish footballer has been convicted in this country of sexually assaulting a young girl in Thailand.

Ian Heddle was snared after being detained at Edinburgh airport in February 2023 as he returned to the Far East.

Former footballer Ian Heddle pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting an 8-year-old child in ThailandCredit: Spindrift
Former footballer Ian Heddle at the High Court in Glasgow, where he pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting an 8-year-old child in ThailandCredit: Spindrift
Heddle also had thousands of vile photos and videos of children being abusedCredit: Spindrift

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.

The 61-year-old’s plump fingers and wedding ring were caught on camera.

Heddle was a midfielder for a number of Scottish clubs in the 1980s and 1990s, including St Johnstone and Dunfermline.

But he is now behind bars after pleading guilty today 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 two counts of indecent images.

He will be sentenced next month.

Heddle had lived in Thailand while working as a crane operator for an offshore company.

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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.

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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 the iPhone, a 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, his passport was seized and ordered to do so to stay in Scotland.

Miss Brown said further checks of the iPhone 12 revealed ‘contact offences’ involving Heddle and an unknown young woman.

The filmed abuse that Heddle committed was described during the hearing today/yesterday.

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 in September 2023 to Dunfermline, Fife, 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 committed the sexual assault on the child.”

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

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

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

He was also put on the sex list of perpetrators.

Detective Inspector Adrian Ure of Police Scotland’s National Child abuse The Investigative Unit said after the sentencing: “We understand how painful this has been for the girl and her family.

“We hope that the knowledge that he has now pleaded guilty will provide them with at least 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.

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‘You will be heard, and we will support you.

“I appeal to everyone who has been a victim of a violation of this nature to contact us in an emergency on 101 or 999.”