'Paedo hunter' child sex offender Ricky Slade found dead

Ricky Slade outside Nottingham railway station Image copyright The Hunted One
Image caption The Hunted One confronted Ricky Slade and showed him a photo they had saved as evidence

A child sex offender who was confronted by a self-styled "paedophile hunting" group has died in prison while awaiting sentence.

Ricky Slade chatted to members of the group, called The Hunted One, who pretended to be girls aged 10, 12 and 14.

The 30-year-old, from Nottingham, was due to be sentenced on 16 February and had been warned he would be jailed.

The Hunted One said it was "deeply shocked" to learn of his death.

A Prison Service spokesperson said: "HMP Nottingham prisoner Ricky Slade died in custody on Friday, 3 February.

"As with all deaths in custody, there will be an independent investigation by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman."

Image copyright The Hunted One
Image caption The group alerted police and an officer arrested Ricky Slade after the confrontation

Slade, who was 29 at the time he committed the offences, arranged to meet what he thought was a 10-year-old girl.

Instead, he was met by members of The Hunted One and then arrested by police.

Members of the group filmed their confrontation on 19 November and published the video online before he was convicted of any offences.

Video published online

In a statement released following Slade's death, the group said: "We would like to send our heartfelt sympathies to the family of Ricky Slade at this difficult time.

"Our team are deeply shocked to learn of this incident.

"Out of respect to his family, we will be removing all posts in relation to this case."

Image copyright The Hunted One
Image caption Ricky Slade thought he was chatting with a girl, 10, but was talking to an adult from the group

Slade admitted three counts of attempting to incite a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity and one count of attempting to meet a child under 16 following grooming.

He was released on bail, but a warrant was issued for his arrest when he failed to attend court for sentencing on 24 January.

He was taken to prison while he awaited his next court appearance. He was 30 years old at the time of his death and of no fixed address.

Image copyright The Hunted One

'Trying to help out'

Ben Bleach, a member of The Hunted One, said the group has a 100% conviction rate and has brought 43 people to court so far.

Speaking before Slade's death, he said: "There are a couple of us in the group that know of people that have been abused in our own families.

"We do it because we've had experience of how much it does affect people as children and as they grow up."

He said "everything is researched" and members of the group chat to suspects for several weeks or months before arranging meetings.

"I find it hard in this day and age why the police can't back groups that are doing it properly, or if not, be willing to give certain training to help groups out, because obviously the police are underfunded by the government so they are stretched as far as they can be," he said.

"So we don't blame the police for not being able to do it, it's just something we are trying to do to help out and we've got a 100% conviction rate as it stands. So I think we are doing quite a good job."

In a statement issued in December, Nottinghamshire Police said that "identifying alleged paedophiles is best left to the police".

However, Det Insp Peter Quinn said the force would consider evidence given to them "irrespective of where the evidence came from".

"We understand the desire to protect children but our advice to any member of the public who has information about suspected child sexual abuse - online or otherwise - is to contact police so we can investigate and, where possible, bring people to justice," he said.