In a joint operation with the FBI and Belgian and South African police, a 37-year-old man was arrested last week in the resort town of Plettenberg Bay for an alleged connection to a massive child pornography ring. Legalbrief reports that the breakthrough occurred after investigators managed to expose the real identities of paedophiles who use online profiles to share their material.
Information and computer files were found depicting horrific acts of child abuse, including possible murder. A Belgian police officer stated that the abuse is the worst that they've ever come across, including the abuse of babies and toddlers. Images of abuse had been uploaded to a file sharing site used by more than 300 users, but these users were reportedly discussing abducting, raping and murdering children. The files revealed 1 700 new victims not currently on Interpol's child-porn database.
The unidentified suspect was sleeping in his mother's upmarket home unaware that an international police team, co-ordinated by the FBI, had surrounded the house. Having been tipped off days before by an ISP that police from SA and Belgium, investigating child porn, had subpoenaed his online history, the man believed he was safe.
The Times reports that he had allegedly spent the previous week covering his tracks, encrypting and deleting files, movies, photos, everything he thought might incriminate him. Everything but one file which he believed nobody knew of. But, states the report, police from the Antwerp child sexual-exploitation team, using the profile of a suspected paedophile in Belgium, profiled a cryptic paedophile on a social media web site.
During their search the encrypted 'rape and kill' file was seen. The report says in the three minutes it appeared on the site - a previously unknown meeting space for paedophiles whose alleged fetishes are the abduction, rape, torture and murder of newborn babies and infants in nappies - police copied the Internet address of the Plettenberg Bay computer engineer.
Belgian police flew to SA two weeks ago to join local officers in Operation Cloud 9. Heila Niemand, a detective leading the SA operation, indicated that some of the abuse had taken place within the past few days, according to the report.
It notes Niemand said key codes and passwords were needed to enter the site, with access granted by invitation only. 'The members act on instructions of others in the group, going out to "collect" children, documenting the abuse and sharing their fantasies through images.'
While infiltrating the website, police discovered 1700 new images of children who were not on Interpol's database of child-porn victims, the report states.
Full report in The Times
The Daily Dispatch reports that the suspect appeared in the Plettenberg Bay Magistrate's Court last week. Bail was set at R10 000 and the matter postponed to 22 April, but a police spokesperson said the man had not paid the money and remained behind bars. The report says in his first court appearance, he said he wanted to plead. Women and children's rights activist Lesley Ann Foster was shocked by the court's decision to grant bail, saying this would give him the chance to cover his tracks and alert others, the report states.
Full Daily Dispatch report (subscription needed)
A report on the Parent24 site notes that it is clear that child pornographers are not limited to one particular demographic: they may be wealthy, poor, male and female and found within a huge range of careers. The report offers some tips on ensuring that your child is as safe as possible from a sexual predator. These include: install a 'nannycam' if your child is alone with a caregiver or babysitter, monitor your child for behavioural changes and potential indicators of abuse such as unusual bruising, make sure that your older children aren't accessing or sharing explicit images and establish ground rules on online access and activity.
Full report on the Parent24 site
In an unrelated case stemming from an online encounter, Lewis Daynes, a computer engineer and avid gamer, has been found guilty of the murder of Breck Bednar, who was found with his throat slashed on 17 February last year. A report in The Independent notes that passing the sentence at Chelmsford Crown Court, Justice Cox said Daynes had exerted influence and control on the younger boy amounting to 'grooming behaviour'. 'The precise details of what happened in your flat are unclear and may never be known,' Cox added, according to the report. 'I'm sure that this murder was driven by sadistic or sexual motivation.' Daynes (19) previously denied murder but changed his plea on the day he was due to stand trial. The boy was found fatally wounded at the flat where he had gone to meet Daynes the day before. The pair had chatted on an online gaming group that Daynes ran from his flat, where he lived alone after his mother left the country and his father asked the local authority to assume care.
Full report in The Independent