SEIZED: HOW 'SWIRLY' PAEDOPHILE WORKED WITH BOYS ALL HIS LIFE
EXPOSED: Neil, 32, once worked as a chaplain
Saturday October 20,2007
By Andrew Drummond in Bangkok and Cyril Dixon in London
THE world's most wanted paedophile was paraded in public yesterday after
a global manhunt traced him to a remote bolthole in Thailand.
Christopher Neil, 32, was flown to Bangkok and put in front of the cameras by police after a tip-off led to his arrest.
Neil ,nicknamed Vico, became the focus of an international search
after images of him abusing children were posted on the internet with
his face digitally disguised into a swirl pattern. Yesterday, as Thai
police warned he faces up to 20 years in jail, details of NeilÃƒÆ’Ã‚Âs
sinister double life emerged, including his work with children as a
teacher and chaplain.
Family and friends described Neil as an ordinary Canadian from a respectable family who had trained as a priest.
He was said to be a ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¬regular guyÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â® who had once worked as a military
chaplain offering comfort and advice to recruits as young as 12.
Neil was identified after Interpol specialists managed to unswirl his image.
He was arrested in Nakorn Ratchassima province, 150 miles north-east of Bangkok, where he had fled to stay with a Thai friend.
During the investigation, police collected up to 200 photographs of
Neil abusing young Vietnamese and Cambodian boys as young as six. Police
say he will be charged within 48 hours with abusing three victims, aged
nine, 13, and 14, at an apartment in the city.
Wearing a white shirt and dark sunglasses and with a foot injury
visible, Neil was placed at a table at Bangkok police headquarters where
he stared impassively ahead while photographers took his picture.
Police Lieutenant-General Ponsapat Pongcharoen said: 'We received
several tips and also found victims of his abuse. We went to pick him up
'He has already been identified by one of the victims, not only from
his face but from a mark on his body. I cannot tell you where that mark
'We have a message. We take the abuse of our children very seriously.
It is against our culture and against our religion. We will not
tolerate foreigners coming to Thailand to abuse our children.'
Yesterday, residents in Neil's home town of Maple Ridge, near Vancouver, were in a state of shock.
His younger brother Matthew, 30, said: 'Our range of emotions has
gone from anger to shock to devastation. My mother is completely
'He came back to stay with us this year from April to August. We'd
often go for a few beers and watch the hockey game. Nothing seemed out
of the ordinary.'
Teacher Amy Bowler, who grew up with Neil in Maple Ridge, said she
contacted Interpol after seeing his image in press reports. 'It was
certainly unthinkable that he would be a predator of any kind,' she
said. 'But the resemblance was so striking that I contacted Interpol if
only, I thought, to rule him out. None of us wanted to believe it was
Neil had begun training to be a priest in the 1990s at the Seminary of Christ the King in Mission, a few miles from Maple Ridge.
Rector the Rev. Nicholas Ruh said yesterday Neil left because he 'lacked the necessary personal qualifications'.
However, he was allowed to work as a chaplain at military cadet
training camps in Nova Scotia for several summers where he gave
spiritual guidance to youths aged between 12 and 18.
Although Neil has spent most of his working life in Thailand, Vietnam
and Cambodia, he also held a volunteer instructor's post at St
Patrick's Elementary School, Maple Ridge, six years ago.
Most recently, he taught at a private school run by the Adventist
Church in Bangkok and offered web advice to Canadian teachers on how to
avoid police scrutiny when applying for jobs in south-east Asia.