October 16, 2007
Police close in on the internet paedophile
A prolific paedophile at the centre of an international manhunt is believed to be an English language teacher living in Thailand, police said yesterday.
Last week Interpol made an unprecedented global appeal to catch the man, codenamed Vico, who is shown sexually abusing children in about 200 images on the web.
The man had digitally altered images of himself to disguise his identity, but police managed to unscramble them. Interpol then released pictures of him and he fled to Thailand last week, three days after the images were publish.
Yesterday Interpol said that the suspect, photographed abusing children in Vietnam and Cambodia, had been identified by five sources from three continents as a man teaching English at a school in South Korea.
Interpol released a picture of the man, believed to be a Canadian, who flew into Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok from Seoul on Thursday. It shows a man in his 30s with receding hair and wearing glasses.
Thai police sources said last night that he had since travelled to Vietnam and the hunt had switched there. Schools in Thailand have closed for a month. Ronald Noble, Interpol's Secretary-General, said in a statement: 'Thailand is at the centre of an international manhunt, and authorities in the country, in cooperation with Interpol and police around the world, are hunting him down.' He praised the remarkable response to the appeal and added: 'We must once again enlist the public's support, this time to pinpoint Vico's current location.'
The man's name, nationality, date of birth, passport number and current and previous places of work have also been established.
Police specialists are reviewing the information and although Interpol would not comment on details of the investigation, it said that all leads would be directed to Interpol's National Central Bureau or police experts specialising in crimes against children.
Interpol made the appeal after its initial investigation across 186 countries failed to identify the man. Photographs of him abusing young boys were altered to create a swirling effect that disguised his face. But specialists from the German federal police agency, the Bundeskriminalamt, worked with the Trafficking in Human Beings Unit of Interpol to unscramble the pictures. After Interpol released a series of identifiable images of the man it received 350 messages from the public. National police forces from Interpol's member countries also were given leads.
Kristin Kvigne, assistant director of Interpol's trafficking in human beings unit, which is managing the case, said: 'The public's response has been very positive, and we have also had encouraging feedback from local and national law enforcement officers.'
The case is part of Interpol's aim to collect every image of child abuse that exists on the internet. The organisation hopes to examine each image, enabling an expert to analyse pictures of abuse as soon as they arrive in police hands. The database has helped to identify more than 600 victims from 31 countries.