Madeleine – Hunting The Paedophiles

Hunting The Paedophiles aired on the UK’s Channel 4 on 7 Dec 2015. It tells the story of Operation Perdition, run by the National Crime Agency. This article in Mailonline by Sarah Burns is an extensive write-up of the programme, so if you are interested in the details, have a read.

The gist of Operation Perdition is that it managed to hunt down 5 young men, all aged under 21, who were targeting pubescent boys by posing as a 14 year old Italian girl, Justina, on social media. After chatting for months, the boys were encouraged to send revealing photos, which were then used to force the victims to go further.

The perpetrators were found to be operating in Bahrain. With the assistance of the Bahraini police, and with the help of a social network operator, the ring of 5 was arrested.

The investigation started with Surrey Police, but by the time they found that nearly 40 boys were involved, aged 10-15, the case was too big for them to handle. It was passed to CEOP, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre at the National Crime Agency. Operation Perdition was started under the direction of senior investigating officer Steph McCourt.

CEOP alerted other county police forces and more instances flowed in. Justina’s photographs were found to belong to a teenage porn actress. The number of Justina’s contacts went up to 12,000. The number of indecent images found when the ring was cracked was over 30,000.

In May 2013, the men were sentenced to 20 years (in total, not each).

Also in May 2013, the NCA was called by West Midlands Police. They had detected another profile using the same contacts as Justina, claiming to be a girl in Florida. This man was tracked to County Durham, and was sentenced to 4 years.

What, if anything does this tell us about Madeleine v paedophiles?

5 men were able to come together in a paedophile ring, and operate for a considerable time without detection.

The ring, despite targeting UK boys, did not first surface on the NCA radar. It took a 13 year old boy to make a complaint to Surrey Police before the police authorities knew. Look at the figure for the number of Justina’s contacts. Look at the figure for the number of indecent images. And CEOP did not twig it until one child reported the abuse.

On this basis, I have to admit the possibility of indecent images of Madeleine circulating on the Internet in 2007, with CEOP equally unable to detect them.

I haven’t learned a great deal of information, as Operation Perdition was tracking young males interested in boys around the age of puberty, using techniques that were not mainstream in 2007.

However, I cannot look at CEOP capability in 2007 as being evidence that Madeleine was not snatched by paedophiles.


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