A man has been found guilty of sexual activity with a child after handing himself in to police following a public appeal.

Joao Francisco, of no fixed address but known to reside in Dagenham, was convicted at Snaresbrook Crown Court on Monday, December 7.

Det Sgt Jasmine Abbey from East Area command said: “I am glad Francisco has been convicted and I hope it provides some comfort to the young victim who has shown a lot of strength throughout the process.”

Police were called after the 16-year-old victim reported being abused by Francisco, 44, in October 2017.

He had been charged in June 2019 for sexual activity with a child but failed to appear in court the following month.

Police then launched a media appeal to find him in October 2019.

Officers were called by members of the public who wanted to pass on information, but Francisco handed himself into a police station in January after seeing himself online.

He was found guilty following a week-long trial.

Det Sgt Abbey said: “I really do want to encourage anyone who has suffered sexual abuse to report it.

“They will speak with specially trained officers who are able to help them and investigate what happened. Please don’t suffer alone, we are here to help you.”

She added that the media appeal resulted in a number of “invaluable” calls from members of the public who were intent on helping police catch Francisco.

“I would like to thank every single one of those people who contacted us. It is imperative that police and the public work together to catch offenders and this is a prime example of how well that process can work,” Det Sgt Abbey said.

Francisco is due to be sentenced in January 2021.

If you suspect someone is in immediate danger of being abused, call 999.

Otherwise call 101 or visit a police station to speak to an officer. The NSPCC is available on 0808 800 5000. You can also contact Crimestoppers without having to give your name on 0800 555 111.