To enjoy the full Mail & Guardian online experience: please upgrade your browser
09 Oct 2007 07:22
Interpol on Monday launched an unprecedented worldwide public appeal as part of a hunt for a prolific paedophile it says has appeared in around 200 images on the internet sexually abusing boys who could be as young as six in Vietnam and Cambodia.
The agency released photographs of an unknown man which had been digitally blurred to disguise his face but have now been unscrambled by German experts to produce clear pictures.
Interpol said it believed the man, who appears to be in his 30s, may continue to be a danger to children while he remains at large. Despite extensive earlier attempts to discover who he is, including circulating photos of him to police around the world through Interpol’s network of 186 member states, the man’s identity and nationality remain a mystery.
He is said to have distinguishing marks on his body that would prove he is the man in the photographs if he is eventually found.
“For years, images of this man sexually abusing children have been circulating on the internet,” Interpol’s secretary general, Ronald Noble, said.
“We have tried all other means to identify and to bring him to justice, but we are now convinced that without the public’s help this sexual predator could continue to rape and sexually abuse young children whose ages appear to range from six to early teens.
Interpol posted four reconstructed photos of the man on its website, together with an original image where his face had been swirled to make it unrecognisable.
He has slightly receding dark hair, and is wearing glasses in one picture. In another he is smiling. The manhunt has been codenamed Vico because of the links to Vietnam and Cambodia.
Anders Persson, a Swedish officer overseeing Interpol’s human trafficking unit’s database of images of child abuse, said one of the pictures found on the internet showed the name of a hotel in Vietnam, but police checks of the guest register turned up no clues. Cambodian police recognised locations in other photos.
The images must date from before December 2004, when they were first discovered online in Germany, and some are digitally stamped as having been taken in 2002 and 2003. The 12 boys who feature in the pictures have not been located.
Persson declined to reveal how specialists at Germany’s federal police agency, the Bundeskriminalamt (BKA), produced the unblurred shots.
“Techniques are always developing,” he said. “What is impossible today is possible tomorrow. There were several attempts to clear the face ... We are sure that you can’t get better pictures and the people in his neighbourhood—family friends, colleagues, whatever—they will recognise him.”
Persson added that he had opposed making the photos public because it demonstrated to criminals that police could now unblur pictures, but that consideration and the risk the man could face public humiliation or violence were outweighed by the desire to protect children.
“It was a long discussion,” he said. “We can’t just sit here and do nothing. We have exhausted all possibilities within police work to find this man ... This was the last step.”
Interpol, which holds more than 520 000 child abuse images from 36 different member countries, asked anyone who recognises the man or who has any other information to contact police or the Interpol bureau in their home country. It urged them not to take any direct action themselves. - Guardian Unlimited Â
Create Account | Lost Your Password?