Thirty one children have been rescued and more than 700 suspects arrested worldwide after British police broke up an alleged pedophile ring linked to an Internet chat room called "Kids the Light of Our Lives."
The chat room "featured images of children being subjected to horrific sexual abuse," the Associated Press is reporting.
About 200 of the suspects are believed to be from United Kingdom.
The following statement was released this morning by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre:
************************* Global online child abuse network smashed
CEOP lead international operation into UK-based paedophile ring
An online trading ground for indecent images of children and live exchanges of abuse has collapsed following an international operation led by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre.
The last 10 months of this complex investigation has resulted in the co-ordination of law enforcement agencies from 35 different countries and their subsequent, ongoing investigations – intelligence from which indicates that there were more than 700 suspects worldwide.
The UK branch of the investigation centres around 200 suspects, the majority of which are currently subject to active police enquiries at this time.
Further information can not be released until these enquiries have concluded.
To date, the international operation has led to 31 children being rescued from abuse or positions of harm.
‘Kids the Light of Our Lives’ was an Internet chat room dedicated to the sexual exploitation of children.
Hundreds of members worldwide used it to trade a range of material, including photographs and videos of children being subjected to sexual abuse and serious sexual assault.
The man behind the network has been convicted at Ipswich Crown Court and now awaits sentence.
27-year-old Timothy David Martyn Cox hosted the website from his home address in Buxhall, masquerading behind the online identity ‘Son_of_god.’
When trading, he used the name ‘I_do_it’.
Cox was identified after intelligence linking the chat room to the UK was passed to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre by Canadian partners within the Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT) last August.
On receiving this information, specialist officers immediately began enquiries to trace the host, using a range of techniques and undercover online activity.
Cox was located and subsequently arrested by officers from Suffolk Constabulary on September 28 2006.
This allowed uncover officers from the CEOP Centre to infiltrate the room and gather valuable evidence.
Over a period of ten days, officers from the CEOP Centre and Toronto Police conducted online surveillance.
They were able to identify further suspects and secure vital information regarding potential victims, before closing down the site.
When Suffolk forensic teams examined Cox’s computer they found 75,960 indecent and explicit images in addition to evidence that he had supplied 11,491 images to other site users.
Cox was subsequently charged with nine offences, relating to the Possession and Distribution of Indecent Images of Children.
In September last year, Gordon Mackintosh from Hertfordshire also became a key subject in the UK inquiry.
The 33-year-old attempted to resurrect ‘Kids the Light of our Lives’ following the Cox’s disappearance as host.
Officers from the CEOP Centre carried out extensive work to identify and locate the individual behind the usernames ‘silentblackheart and ‘lust4skoolgurls’. Alongside Hertfordshire Police, they arrested Mackintosh on January 9, 2007.
CEOP officers, alongside VGT partners from the Australian Federal Police, ICE (US Department of Homeland Security) and Toronto Police undertook 24-hour online surveillance to infiltrate the room for a second time and collate details of all the offenders attempting to trade material.
McIntosh’s computer was found to contain 5,167 indecent and explicit images of children, in addition to 392 indecent movie files.
He pleaded guilty to 27 charges of making, possessing and distributing indecent images and movies.
He awaits sentence.
“Today’s verdict serves as a powerful warning to those using the Internet to facilitate the sexual exploitation of children,” said Jim Gamble, CEO at the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre and Chairman of the Virtual Global Taskforce.
“From the apparent ‘safety’ of his home, Cox spent hours each day planning, promoting and encouraging the abuse and exploitation of innocent young victims. In doing so he provided a service to hundreds of like minded individuals, enabling those with a sexual interest in children to share indecent images and discuss further plans for abuse.
“Any individual who thinks they carry out such horrific activities undetected is in for a very rude awakening. The belief that the Internet provides anonymity is unfounded and for Cox and Mackintosh it has already proved to be a costly misconception.
“Thankfully both are behind bars today. As predators become increasing sophisticated in their use of the Internet for exploiting young people, so too do the techniques we use to detect them. We will continue to work alongside local police forces and our law enforcement partners worldwide, to track and prosecute those who prey on young victims and to protect greater numbers of children from harm.”