Sex offender misidentified as person lurking near Torbay school
The rumours spread like wildfire. But according to police, that’s all they are — rumours.
Residents in Torbay have been taking to social media this week, expressing outrage about a suspicious man who has reportedly been seen lurking around the parking lot of an elementary school in the town.
This file photo shows John Ernest Jacobs at provincial court in St. John’s. — Telegram file photo
The problem is they are misidentifying him as convicted sex offender John Ernest Jacobs.
“Local pedophile found again in the parking lot of Holy Trinity elementary school,” one parent stated in a messages on Facebook, which had more than 3,000 shares.
Jacobs has an extensive criminal record which includes convictions for invitation to sexual touching involving a child and performing indecent acts.
Recently, the 44-year-old had been charged with loitering around a Torbay daycare and school and breaching court orders to stay away from areas where children younger than 14 may be present.
In June last year, officers, who had surveillance on Jacobs, said they saw him walking back and forth in front of the daycare and school.
Testifying at his trial last month in provincial court, the officers said Jacobs’ eyes had been focused on the children in the playground and he was seen rubbing his genital area a few times as he watched them.
But the judge found Jacobs not guilty because Jacobs was across the street, more than 50 feet away from the daycare and school property. The judge did find him guilty of making harassing phone calls to young children, but was released from jail with time served.
When parents of students in the school reported seeing a man this past week, many assumed it was Jacobs.
But RNC media relations Const. Talia Murphy said that while police are investigating reports of suspicious activity in the area of the school, she confirmed Thursday it was not Jacobs.
“At this point, we have received no reports that any offence has occurred,” Murphy said in an email.
“A name has been linked to some of these reports and we can confirm that it is not that individual. Also, that individual does not reside within the Northeast Avalon region.”
The Telegram story on Jacobs’ trial has seen a recent flood of hits as a result of the rumours. Many people are also reposting the story on social media, with comments warning others about the alleged sightings.
The concerns prompted Holy Trinity Elementary School officials to issue an advisory to parents this week.
It stated: “This is a cautionary message. Because we have had reports of a suspicious person around our school, we are even more cautious on our dismissal procedures and we are asking you to be diligent on arranged pick up times and review with your child/children the safety protocol about strangers.”
It’s not the first advisory that has been issued about Jacobs. When he moved back to this province after being released from Dorchester Penitentiary in New Brunswick in March 2011, officers notified daycare administrators, who issued letters to parents.
Police said it had caused concern among parents of children in the community.
At the time, he was also seen several times peering into the windows of a house where a five-year-old girl lived. He was also seen watching children toboggan at a hill on Empire Avenue in St. John’s, near the Elks Club.
Attempts to contact Jacobs Thursday were unsuccessful.
Jacobs’ lawyer Tammy Drover told The Telegram that people have to be careful about jumping to conclusions.
“John had his trial and he was acquitted. And there have been no new charges against him,” Drover said.
“He’s entitled to go about his daily life without being falsely portrayed, without being falsely persecuted by people who have information that hasn’t been verified.”
As part of Jacobs’ sentence, he agreed to seek treatment and to work with his probation officer to participate in counselling programs.