A FORMER Dunfermline Athletic footballer has been convicted in this country of sexually abusing a young girl in Thailand.

Ian Heddle, 61, who played for the club from 1983 to 1987 and was latterly living in Lochgelly, was snared after being held at Edinburgh Airport in February 2023 as he attempted to return to the Far East.

A number of electronic devices he had were seized and police uncovered a sick haul of more than 270,000 indecent photos and videos of children.

Officers found three clips of him abusing a child - believed to be aged around eight - as she slept at an address in Chonburi in Thailand in 2019.

His "chubby" fingers and wedding ring were captured on camera.

Heddle was a midfielder and as well as 41 appearances for Dunfermline, he played for St Johnstone, Forfar Athletic and Brechin City in the 1980s and 1990s.

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

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

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

The High Court in Glasgow heard how Heddle had been linked to the viewing and uploading of child abuse material from the web.

This was said to have been done at a property in Scotland where he stayed while visiting from Thailand.

Heddle was not there when police called, but officers got information that he was catching 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 away to be examined.

Prosecutor Tracey Brown told the court: "He was interviewed and spoke freely. He admitted to the possession of indecent images of children.

"He stated that there would be thousands of images and videos in his hard drive and that they were categorised into folders."

Miss Brown said there was a total of 272,936 photos as well as 4,001 clips.

He initially appeared in court in connection with that, was bailed and had his passport seized and ordered to remain in Scotland.

Miss Brown said further checks of the phone revealed "contact offending" involving Heddle and an unknown young female.

The filmed abuse Heddle carried out was described at the court hearing.

The court was told "facial features" could not be identified.

Miss Brown added: "However, the hands were relatively chubby with hairs on his fingers and he was wearing a distinct wedding band."

Heddle was traced by police to Dunfermline in September 2023 where he had been working as a road cleaner.

Miss Brown said: "During an interview, he verified himself as the person in the pictures and videos carrying out the sexual assault of the child."

His KC, Brian McConnachie, said Heddle "from the very outset" had been "co-operative" with police, wanted the court case resolved and that "come what May, there would not be a trial".

He had been on bail, but Judge John McCormick told him: "Your status has now changed and you will be remanded in custody."

Heddle was also put on the sex offenders list.

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

"Police Scotland is committed to protecting children and were able to pursue Heddle under legislation which protects children anywhere in the world from sexual abuse by British nationals.

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

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

“I urge anyone who has been the victim of any offence of this nature to contact us on 101 or 999 in an emergency.”