Massive ‘paedophile ring’ uncovered
International police led by a UK team say they shut down the largest internet paedophile ring yet discovered.
The global forum had 70,000 followers at its height, leading to 4,000 intelligence reports being sent to police across 30 countries.
The operation has so far identified 670 suspects and 230 abused children.
Detectives say 184 people have been arrested – 121 of them were in the UK. Some 60 children have been protected in the UK.
The three-year investigation, Operation Rescue, was led by investigators from the UK’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop).
Speaking at a news conference at The Hague in the Netherlands, investigators said the network hid behind a legal online forum which operated out of the country – but its members came from around the world.
Along with the Netherlands and the UK, suspects have been identified in Australia, Italy, Canada, New Zealand and Thailand.
The members of the network went into a private channel, boylover.net, and then used its secret systems to share films and images of abused children, said Rob Wainwright, director of European police agency Europol.
However, child abuse investigators, including a team from Ceop, had already infiltrated the network and were posing as paedophiles to gather intelligence.
In the UK, the 240 suspects include police officers, teachers and a karate teacher. One of the suspects in the UK is a woman.
The latest arrest was in Northamptonshire.
To date, 33 have been convicted, including John McMurdo, a scout leader from Plymouth. Another forum user was Stephen Palmer, 54, of Birkenhead, who shared abuse images with contacts in the US. A third man, 46-year-old Colin Hoey Brown of Bromsgrove, was jailed for making and distributing almost 1,000 images. (BBC)