Madeleine – Panorama special 3 May 2017

Reporter Richard Bilton, who has covered the Madeleine McCann case for 10 years, presented a BBC Panorama special on 3 May 2017 entitled ‘Madeleine McCann 10 Years On’.

Mr Bilton obtained an interview with Pedro do Carmo, Deputy Director, Polícia Judiciária. He said it is still a missing child case. Plus the PJ wanted to learn what to do if it is repeated.

The Lisbon court case of the McCanns v Gonçalo Amaral was covered briefly.

The programme added various scenes of Luz that are impossible to get from the ground. If you check the credits at the end, you will see the drone camera operator was Andy Webb.

The documentary covered the basics of the case – 9 adults eating at the Tapas restaurant, 8 children in block 5, Kate alerting around 10pm that Madeleine was missing.

There was a previously unseen interview with Gonçalo Amaral from 2012, in which it was claimed there was nothing to support an abduction.

The programme said the Portuguese police found inconsistencies in the time-line, and thought the McCanns had acted oddly by bringing in the media.

The dog deployments were next, presumably to move on to an interview of Kate and Gerry McCann by Sandra Felgueiras. This was the one where Gerry said cadaver dogs are unreliable.

Had the Portuguese settled on their theory before final DNA results were available? Panorama did not pick up the order of things from Kate’s book ‘madeleine’. The McCanns let it be known they were soon leaving Portugal. The PJ chose to interview them before their announced leaving date. The incomplete results still required that the McCanns were made arguidos.

The Smith family gave statements that they saw a man carrying a child several hundred metres from the Ocean Club at around 10pm on 3 May. Gerry would be implicated in the sighting, but he had an alibi of being at the Tapas Restaurant at that time.

In 2008 the case was archived, and the McCanns were no longer arguidos.

Robert Murat gave his opinion on events of that time. Was his mother being followed by private investigators? Was Mr Bilton asked to spy on his colleagues with respect to Mr Murat?

The BBC documentary moved to the report by Jim Gamble, then head of CEOP. It recommended a review. The report appeared to languish until May 2011, when The Sun serialised Kate McCann’s book ‘madeleine’.

Operation Grange was started. The documentary moved to ‘the British story’.

There were burglaries in Luz, that allegedly the local operators kept quiet to protect trade. Heriberto Janosch González told of 3 recent burglaries in block 4 and block 5. In a video, he demonstrated how to raise the shutter an open the window from outside.

3 men were potentially involved in a burglary that night. José Carlos da Silva, a driver at the Ocean Cub. Ricardo Rodrigues, aged 16 in 2017. And Paulo Ribeiro. These were allegedly connected by phone messages and texts. These were 3 Portuguese people on a phone to each other in Luz, and the phone traffic was normal. José Carlos da Silva declined to be interviewed. Ricardo Rodrigues could not be contacted. Paulo Ribeiro was interviewed and he denied involvement in a burglary. He said he had been identified from a drawing or e-fit.

Presumably that was from Crimewatch Oct 2013. If so it is puzzling as to how Sr Ribeiro was identified, as that Crimewatch programme did not air on any Portuguese channel, though those e-fits were shown in Portuguese media.

Judging by the Panorama interview, Sr Ribeiro does not appear to be the kind of person who could keep a major secret for 10 years.

I think I may have had a very brief encounter with Sr Ribeiro about a year ago, though I had no idea at the time that it was him.

Scotland Yard announced these 3 men were no longer persons of interest in April 2017.

Panorama moved on to another man, Vitor dos Santos. He had given a fairly long statement in 2007. He confirmed he had been interviewed by British police, and that must have been in Dec 2014. He said the questions were much the same as in 2007 e.g. about the logistics of the holiday complex. Sr dos Santos had been laid off by the Ocean Club and now made a living taking tourists on boat trips near Lagos.

It seems Operation Grange has a further lead to pursue but Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley would not be drawn on what it was. That left the recent press speculation that it might be about a woman seen near apartment 5A acting suspiciously on 3 May 2007.

I was in contact with the Panorama team to explain some information. However, that was shortly before the programme aired, when the documentary must have been nearly fully completed. So I have no reason to believe anything was altered as a result of our exchange.


Madeleine – Sky special – 2 May 2017

On 2 May 2017, Sky showed ‘Searching for Madeleine’, a special to mark the10th anniversary of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. The presenter was Martin Brunt, who has followed the case for the 10 years since it began. The studio guest was Colin Sutton, an ex-DCI from Scotland Yard with experience of conducting major investigations.

The fist 10 minutes covered the basics. The holiday, the Tapas zone, the initial response to the incident by Portuguese police.

Sky News on 4 May 2007 ran with the story that a 3 year old British girl was missing on the Algarve. Pedro do Carmo, Deputy Director, Judicial Police, described the initial work as a rescue operation, looking for a child that was missing.

Here Sky hit its first wobbly. It says the apartment was let out twice before it was sealed off for a full forensic examination. The reality is different. The PJ from Portimão tried to collect forensic evidence in the very early hours of 4 May 2007. Irene Trovão, also a local forensic officer, was videoed checking the shutter of the children’s bedroom for fingerprints. And while Gerry and Kate McCann were giving their first witness statements, a forensics duo from Lisbon conducted the major forensic examination on the afternoon of 4 May 2007. The forensics had been done. There was no way to foresee the apartment should be sealed off until Eddie and Keela were deployed.

The centrepiece of the Sky programme was a Home Office report written by Jim Gamble, then head of CEOP, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.

This documented the many organisations that were involved close to the beginning, and the difficulties this caused. Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary at the time, questioned if Leicestershire Police had the wherewithal to handle this type of investigation. Mr Gamble was asked to consider if it was worth getting Scotland Yard involved. Mr Gamble suggested a scoping review to identify if opportunities had been missed, but officials appeared to be set against this.

Mr Gamble was shocked to find the parents had not been investigated first by the Portuguese police, in order to clear the ground for further enquiries. He went on to say the Portuguese response was inadequate, but he used a comparison in the UK that does not approximate to the situation in Luz in 2007. I will return to that in a future post.

Colin Sutton made the point that a snapshot of the incident area was not constructed, and more could have been done by UK police re interviewing British holidaymakers who had returned to the UK, and British workers in the ‘complex’.

My main criticism of the early effort is that apparently little was done to get door-to-door information in the immediate vicinity of apartment 5A.

Sky went on to cover leaks to the Portuguese press, concerning dog alerts and supposed DNA results. Mr Sutton pointed out that dog alerts are not evidence.

The events around the McCanns being made arguidos, flying home to the UK, and removal of arguido status upon archiving of the case was covered.

There appeared to be a 3-way split between the McCanns, the Portuguese police and the UK police. The CEOP report then makes an odd assertion. It alleges the McCanns had a significant amount of information from their private investigators, and this information had not been fully shared with either the Portuguese police or the UK police. I cannot see how Mr Gamble could reach such a conclusion. Perhaps it is explained in the CEOP report, but I haven’t read that document.

Mark Rowley, Assistant Commissioner, Metropolitan Police, explained there had been a discussion of the case in 2011 between the Prime Ministers of Portugal and the UK, and it was agreed that Scotland Yard would get involved.

The documentary then covered the remit. Colin Sutton explained that a fresh investigation should start right at the beginning. This echoes what was said by Jim Gamble. However, Operation Grange was to be restricted to abduction. AC Mark Rowley says parental involvement had been covered by the original Portuguese investigation. The recent Supreme Court decision made it clear this is not the case.

The Sky documentary moved on to the Jane Tanner sighting. Martin Brunt pointed out the obvious – namely if the man was coming from the Ocean Club night crèche, then he was going the wrong way. Jane Tanner’s rogatory statement pointed out this problem. If the night crèche closed at 11.30pm, It is actually more likely that at 9.15pm, the time of the Tanner sighting, he was heading towards the night crèche.

Scotland Yard presented two e-fits of a man carrying a child ‘towards the beach’. This of course was the Smith sighting at 10pm. Crimewatch 2013 did indeed state this man was heading towards the beach.

This suggests that Martin Brunt does not fully understand the Smith sighting. 12-year-old Aoife Smith’s statement does not fit with ‘towards the beach’. Should Mr Brunt ever return to Luz, I will be happy to show him why Aoife Smith’s statement strongly suggests ‘towards the beach’ is wrong. And why that man is likely to be Portuguese and innocent. Plus why that man is unlikely to come forward. And what needs to be done to get him to identify himself.

The documentary covered Operation Grange’s look at charity collectors. There is an easy test for this. The bogus ones do door-to-door, and disappear rapidly if they make some cash. The genuine ones go to the main thoroughfares and work there for hours on end.

Then Sky covered a burglary gone wrong. Whilst Operation Grange evaluated this as viable, Portuguese police did not think it likely.

The documentary moved to mobile phone data. The CEOP report says there was lots of it, but it was badly handled by Portuguese investigators. It had not been fully analysed, and the Portuguese should accept UK help. This sounds to me to be very over-simplistic, but I cannot be certain as I have not read the CEOP report.

Then the documentary moved to its weakest point, what can be extracted from that phone data. Nothing Colin Sutton said on this has much relevance to Luz on 3 May 2007.

As is normal, there were 3 cellphone operators in Luz – Optimus, TMN and Vodafone. Roughly speaking, each operator cuts Luz into a western half and an eastern half, and that is as much as you get. Was the cellphone active in Luz that night, and if so, was it in the west of Luz or the east.

Take for example Kate McCann. Her phone was active that night on Optimus antenna Luz 2. That antenna covers the east of Luz, and apartment 5A is indeed in the east of Luz. But the whole of the Ocean Club is in the eastern half of Luz, as is the majority of the commercial establishments e.g. the Mirage. I cannot tell from phone data if Kate was in or around 5A when her phone was active. The phone data is very rough.

Further, DCI Andy Redwood has said that a major obstacle to phone data analysis was PAYG phones.

4 people were made arguidos in July 2014, but have now been informed they are no longer persons of interest.

The new Portuguese investigation focussed on a series of sex attacks in the Algarve. It would appear most were on older children, but one was on a child aged 3. Euclides Monteiro, an ex-waiter at the Ocean Club, was identified by the Portuguese investigation as a suspect for the sex attacks. DNA tests ruled out Mr Monteiro. He had been killed in a tractor accident in 2009.

The Sky documentary examined the woke and wandered theory. Local ex-pat Mr John Ballinger provided some photos of the road works in Luz around that time. There was no examination as to why Kate McCann’s description of apartment 5A that night is a poor fit with woke and wandered.

Mr Brunt pointed out that there is no evidence to prove Madeleine came to any harm, so she may still be alive.

Have lessons been learned from the disappearance of Madeleine McCann? Jim Gamble and Alan Johnson think not.

The documentary covered some of the Internet abuse directed at Kate and Gerry. Two police investigations found no evidence of their involvement in Madeleine’s disappearance. The Sky investigation also found no such evidence.

It concluded that the mystery of what happened to Madeleine McCann remains just that. A mystery.

AC Mark Rowley said there is a significant line of enquiry that remains to be pursued, but would not divulge what it was.

On the armchair experts forum that I prefer, the general view was that little was learned from this Sky special. However, that is not the correct view to take, in my opinion. This programme was not aimed at a handful of amateur detectives. It was targeting the greater British public. And for those, I suspect the key point that was delivered was that roughly £12 million down the line, the investigation is fatally flawed because, despite what DCI Andy Redwood said, it did not start by going back to the very beginning.

Madeleine, CEOP, Wayback Machine

In June 2015, a remarkable discovery emerged from the waves. CEOP, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, was alleged to have posted Madeleine’s disappearance on the Internet days before 3 May 2007.

This story re-emerges on a frequent basis, and for some reason it has surfaced once again. It is the top search about the Madeleine McCann case that is finding this ShiningInLuz blog. I have no idea why interest has bubbled up again at this time.

A one-line summary of the event is that a technical error on the Wayback Machine meant that historical records from months after Madeleine’s disappearance had been misfiled with a date from a few days before she went missing. It was possible to verify this using captures of CEOP from the Wayback Machine and another site that captures historical data.

Eventually, the Wayback Machine did the best it could, and wiped the misfiled data.

This sequence of events has been a part of the fuel that has fired the notion that Madeleine disappeared days before 3 May 2007. From the search history regarding my blog, it is one of those stories that will run forever, no matter what evidence is provided to the contrary.

I had enough foresight to capture all of the data that shows this incident is nothing more than a technical error on the Wayback Machine. Use the tags to see for yourself.

I have no reason whatsoever to doubt that Madeleine was alive when she was checked out after High Tea on 3 May 2007.

Madeleine – paedophilia in Portugal post-Madeleine

What has been the coverage of paedophilia in Portugal post-Madeleine?

The case generating the most media attention was the Casa Pia scandal, which I have covered earlier.

I have also covered the SIS year 2000 report, and whether that might have contributed to Portugal’s Operation Predator.

Casa Pia was a catalyst for people reporting paedophilia to the police, and for increased media coverage. If you look at you will find an index of paedophilia stories that have been published by Público. Each page of the index links to 10 stories, and there are about 100 stories per year. It seems other media organisations also use paedophilia (or rather pedofilia) to gather together stories on the topic.

The Público link becomes a nuisance to use after the first 5 pages, but I gone back to the beginning of 2014 to get a flavour of things.

The first point to note is that not all of the stories relate to Portugal. For various reasons, a considerable number relate to the UK. Another topic of interest is the Catholic Church.

From the rest, reports of arrests in Portugal are in the minority. Other topics include documentaries and films, and a major driver is the development of a database or register of those convicted of paedophilia within Portugal.

On 29 Jan 2014, it was reported that the Minister of Justice, Paula Teixeira da Cruz, was making the establishment of a paedophile register a priority for 2014. Of course, nothing is quite as simple as that in Portugal.

Here is a brief insight into how things developed. In early March 2015, the Council of Ministers approved the draft legislation to establish the database and how the information was to be used. On 20 Mar 2015, the weekly Expresso became the source of a story that Paula Teixeira da Cruz had manipulated the re-offence rate up from 17.6% to 80% to get the legislation through. (I have no idea whether either of these figures is true in Portugal.) Whilst approved by the Council of Ministers, the legislation had yet to be approved by Parliament.

In Parliament, the legislation was generally accepted, but one particular part was deemed unconstitutional. The offending part gave the parents of minors aged under 18 the right to go to the police and ask if person X was on the register. On 3 July 2015, this was replaced by the right of such parents, if they had genuine concerns, to go to the police and ask if there were any known paedophiles in the vicinity of their house, the child’s school and places frequented by the child. If yes, the police would state there was/were paedophile(s), without revealing the name(s) and address(es) of those concerned. The amended legislation was approved by Parliament the same day.

The legislation was approved by the President of the Republic, Aníbal Cavaco Silva, on 12 Aug 2015, so Portugal now has this register.

The register is not a direct equivalent of the UK sex offenders register, though the people looking at the proposed bill did study the workings of the UK sex offenders register. For a start, the Portuguese database is not a register of all sex offenders. Rather it is restricted to those convicted of paedophilia. Secondly, Portugal has a concept of ‘the right to forget’. After a period of time depending on the crime, the slate gets wiped clean and the police records are supposed to be expunged. This applies to DNA in the Portuguese DNA database, and it applies to paedophilia in the case of the Portuguese paedophile register. The times being debated were 5 years to 20 years after conviction, but I don’t know what went into the legislation. A point about which I know nothing is whether paedophiles are required to report to the police whilst on the register. Nor do I know if there is restriction on movement.

Having covered the development of the Portuguese paedophile register, let me move on to a couple of other stories from Público. On 7 May 2014, it was reported that the Vatican had removed 848 paedophile priests over a period of a decade. To be clear, this was a world-wide total and the report does not indicate how many of these were in Portugal. This story had passed me by, so I don’t know how it was reported in the UK. On 16 Jul 2014, Público reported that UK police had arrested 660 (six hundred and sixty) people on paedophilia charges, in a massive sweep. Público further reported that 39 of these were known sex offenders. A check on the British media makes it clear I did indeed miss this one, because the story is everywhere.

There are three further interesting points to this event. The first is that UK police made it plain they did not wish to comment of the methods they used, so that they could use the same techniques again in future, The Telegraph speculated that Scotland Yard had managed to crack the Dark Web, but provided no evidence to support this.

The second interesting point is that the operation seems to have been limited to the UK only, There is nothing to suggest that intelligence for the operation originated outside the UK, nor that other countries ran parallel raids on the basis of this breakthrou

Madeleine – paedophilia – CEOP

Please note this article is about the analytical capability of CEOP at the time Madeleine disappeared. There are quite separate posts on this blog about the technical glitch on the Wayback Machine that wrongly makes it look like CEOP knew of Madeleine’s disappearance some days prior to 3 May 2007.

CEOP was the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre. It was formed in April 2006, so it had only been running for about a year when Madeleine disappeared. However, there was a predecessor called the Paedophile Online Investigation Team, making an accurate evaluation of CEOP’s capability more difficult.

CEOP was a member of the Virtual Global Taskforce, also established in 2004. Members included the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Italy, Holland, Colombia and the Philippines. Portugal was not a member directly, though Interpol and Europol were. This has already been touched on in Operation Predator (the US version), aimed at the deportation of people living in the US indulging in paedophilia and US citizens travelling abroad considered to be high risk re child sex tourism.

Operation Avalanche was a major US programme which followed on from the arrest in 1999 of Thomas and Janice Reedy for facilitating access to child porn sites. Essentially, they has a multi-million dollar business which took payments by credit card then permitted access to porn sites based overseas, splitting the sign-up fee with the distributor site. The Reedy couple thought they were immune from prosecution in the US as the distribution sites were not on US territory. In 2000, Thomas Reedy was found guilty, and after an appeal over a very long sentence, it was reduced to 180 years (one hundred and eighty).

Following the arrest of the Reedy couple, the US authorities were sitting with a massive database of users from around the world who had, allegedly, been using their credit cards to access child porn. There were several flies in the ointment. Thomas Reedy had detected major credit card fraud, and had written a system designed to block it. This was not effective, and eventually his ability to act as a gateway was revoked, due to the cost of processing dud transactions.

The Reedy database was split up by country. The US authorities launched Operation Avalanche to deal with the US side, some 35,000 users, leading eventually to 100 arrests.

The UK was sent details for 7,272 names. In the UK this programme was called Operation Ore, and it came in for some heavy criticism. 3,744 people were investigated and 1,451 were convicted.

The UK had a rather odd law, that a person could be convicted of paedophilia if a person’s card details appeared in a database containing other people who had accessed child sex material, whether such card use was fraudulent or not, and whether the card itself was used to access child sex as opposed to any other legal material. If no child porn was found in a home search, the user could be charged with incitement i.e. inciting the Reedy couple to continue providing a gateway to child porn.

A further requirement of UK standard operating procedure was that police forces were required to act quickly, to separate vulnerable children from potential paedophiles, thereby not permitting time to evaluate the database properly.

CEOP and its Chief Executive, Jim Gamble, were accused of using vague terms which do not have a recognised meaning within either child protection or law enforcement when they defended the operation. Guardian, 17 May 2007,

If that is the background, what was CEOP getting up to in 2006, when it was formed, and in 2007, when Madeleine disappeared? Here the Wayback Machine proves to be helpful as it is possible to retrieve CEOP press releases from that period. The URL needed is the old CEOP one ,, and the press releases are at

24 Apr 2006 New CEOP Centre will be the most significant development in child protection to date

22 Jun 2006 Website snares its first online grooming offender. Lee Costi became the first person convicted in the UK after there was an accusation raised via CEOP/VGT

03 Jul 2006 Social Networking Sites Under The Spotlight. The growing use of social networks re paedophilia.

25 Jul 2016 Thousands of child sex abuse images taken offline as eastern European crime gang arrested in dawn raids. Dawn raids in five UK police regions have this morning seen the arrest of 13 men and women all suspected of being connected with pay-per-view websites offering images of child sex abuse. (Judging by full release, this was a gang of eastern Europeans operating in the UK rather than a joint international effort.)

17 Nov 2006 CEOP launches first national website to track child sex offenders. This was based on the success of Crimestoppers Most Wanted. The CEOP version would feature details of child sex offenders in breach of their notification requirements. None of these offenders was linked to the Algarve.

29 Dec 2006 Child sex offender details posted on Most Wanted website. CEOP Centre posts its sixth most wanted convicted offender after 4 of the first 5 offenders are located.

03 May 2007 Keep up to date with the nation’s ‘Most Wanted’. The public can now keep track of convicted child sex offenders who go missing thanks to a new facility launched by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre and independent charity Crimestoppers.

09 May 2007 Disappearance of Madeleine McCann. Web Appeal for Information. Portuguese Police have extended a web based plea for information following the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

The latest appeal has been issued by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre and the Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT) at the request of the Portuguese authorities.

The appeal is sited at and It appears in English, Portuguese and Spanish and urges people to come forward with any information that could help police find the missing youngster.

Both sites receive extensive daily hits from browsers in more than 130 different countries. It is hoped the move will help extend the reach of the appeal to as many people as possible, including holiday goers who may have recently returned from Portugal, or be intending to visit.

Any information should be passed to directly to the Portuguese police on 00 351 282 405 400.

Two forensic behavioural analysts from the CEOP Centre have been assisting with this inquiry. They have been made available to the authorities to ensure they have the full range of expertise available for every possible avenue of investigation.”

(This is the one and only press release I can find on CEOP about Madeleine McCann.)

18 Jun 2007 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 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 CEOP Centre by Canadian partners within the Virtual Global Taskforce 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 9 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 9th 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.”

30 Oct 2007 British man arrested in Thailand on child sexual abuse offences

A 39 year old British man has been arrested in Thailand today following a joint operation by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre and the Royal Thai Police (RTP).

The man was arrested for offences including transmission of obscene material and malicious internet use.

The arrest forms part of an ongoing investigation initiated when in 2003 the man breached his notification requirements under the sex offenders register. Intelligence reports received in August 2007 indicated that the man had fled to Thailand and may be a risk to children.

CEOP’s Overseas Tracker Team picked up the case and a joint operation was launched alongside the Royal Thai Police – one of a number of collaborative programmes currently running in partnership with the RTP to deter and prevent British nationals travelling to South East Asia to abuse children.”

05 Nov 2007 46 Arrests in UK as international child sex offender network smashed

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre has coordinated the UK response in smashing a global child sex offender network.

So far, 46 suspects have been arrested in the UK in operations involving 22 police forces around the country with more arrests expected in the near future.

Operation Koala was initiated in 2006 and involved the sexual abuse of children from a modelling website based in Italy. ‘Customers’ from all over the world were able to order tailor-made videos depicting the abuse.

The investigation began when a child abuse video – made in Belgium – was discovered in Australia. A Belgian perpetrator and two victims were identified. Consequently, the sole producer of the material, a 42 year old Italian national, was arrested. He was running a website on which he sold over 150 self-made, sexually explicit videos of young girls. The business had been running for eighteen months and generated considerable profits from around 2,500 customers worldwide.

The abusive material was mainly produced in the man’s private studio. Some material was filmed in Belgium and the Netherlands. One of the video’s sold by the Italian suspect shows a father sexually abusing his daughters of 9 and 11 years of age. ‘Customers’ of this website were able to order tailor made videos and some even travelled to the studio in order to watch and record the abuse, making their own private videos.

Shortly after the Italian child sex offender was arrested in Bologna, the Italian authorities forwarded all digitalised material, including ‘customer’ details to Europol and Eurojust. From here, the material was disseminated to the countries in which customers were identified.

In June 2007, the material was passed to CEOP which holds UK responsibility for receiving intelligence and information from overseas on child sexual abuse crimes.

CEOP’s Intelligence Faculty analysed and developed the material and passed details of individual suspects to their local police forces who in turn initiated their own investigations. Operational activity in relation to these investigations is ongoing and likely to continue for some time.”

05 Mar 2008 Eight UK children identified in images seized from international paedophile ring

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre has identified and safeguarded eight British children from sexual abuse as a result of thousands of indecent images seized in an international police operation led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States.

This two-year joint investigation between the FBI and the Queensland Police in Australia focused in on a highly-sophisticated newsgroup hosted on the internet where individuals from around the world traded child sexual abuse images.

As a result of this operation, 400,000 images were seized and where possible identified to a particular country. They were then passed to the appropriate police agencies around the world to investigate further.

In the UK, this work is undertaken by the CEOP Centre and specifically by a specialist team of investigators who use facial recognition software and thorough detective work, examining the images and painstakingly looking for clues to locate the victim or the offender.

The Victim Identification Team at CEOP is headed up by Paul Griffiths:

“Whilst it can be difficult at times, this work is vital to identifying and locating children who are being subjected to horrendous abuse. In this case, eight children aged between six and 14 have since been protected from further abusive situations and six men are currently serving jail terms for their role in sexually abusing these children”.

In every image there is a child. These images are crime scene photos where children are being subjected to sexual abuse. This is not ‘child pornography’.

It’s important to remember too, though that these children were not missing. They were located in the place where they were supposed to be safe – their own home – where their abuse was recorded and made available over the internet to satisfy sickening sexual desires of a deviant group of individuals.”

So far, two British men and 20 other individuals from the USA, Canada, Australia and Germany have been arrested in connection to their role in this newsgroup paedophile network.”

21 Apr 2008 Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre publishes 2nd year results and lays out the challenge ahead

131 Children safeguarded from sexual abuse

297 Suspected child sex offenders arrested – a three fold increase

6 Organised paedophile rings dismantled

1.7 Million UK children receiving “safety first” education

2nd year results from the CEOP Centre – the UK’s dedicated organisation for tackling the sexual abuse of children – show the battle against child sex offenders continues to gather pace.

The CEOP Centre was set up in 2006 to deliver a national policing focus that would track some of the UK’s highest risk sex offenders, provide services across the wider child protection community and deliver a holistic and inclusive response that would get to the heart of the crime.

That focus has led to the safeguarding of 131 children and the arrest of 297 suspected offenders during the last twelve months, with the arrest figures alone being a three-fold increase on the organisation’s first year results.

During the last year the organisation has processed almost 1 million images of child sex abuse – using each unique image to help either build up intelligence, track and bring offenders to account, or as vital parts of an investigative jigsaw leading to 18 young victims being identified from this area of work alone.

And offenders have been targeted not only individually, but also where they have formed intricate paedophile networks with 6 such groups infiltrated and dismantled throughout the year – all with international footprints.

Reports from both the child protection community within the widest sense and members of the public – through the CEOP Centre’s unique report abuse virtual environment – continue on an upward trend with a total of 5,812 reports received and activated during the past year – a 76% increase on the monthly average from 2006/07.”

08 Aug 2008. UK police uncover global online paedophile network

Police today revealed that an international paedophile network has been infiltrated by law enforcement officers and dozens of suspects arrested.

The operation was run jointly by the CEOP Centre, Cleveland Police and the Metropolitan Police Service.

The investigation involved the largest ever coordinated deployment of undercover officers in the UK within a child protection investigation.

The announcement came as a 27 year old Teesside man was sentenced to an indeterminate public protection sentence for his part in the network, which has so far identified over 360 suspects worldwide. More than 130 of these suspects are in the UK, resulting in over 50 arrests to date.

15 children have been safeguarded in the UK as a result of this ongoing investigation.

Philip Anthony Thompson, unemployed and from the Stockton-on-Tees area of Cleveland, was charged with 27 counts in total including causing or inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity, taking indecent photographs of a child and making and distributing child abuse images. Approximately a quarter of a million child abuse images, still and moving and ranging from levels 1-5, were discovered in Thompson’s possession.

The investigation began in May 2007 when the Metropolitan Police Paedophile Unit initiated an undercover operation into an internet forum. Users of the forum would post disturbing, ‘borderline-legal’ images of children and pass comments on the images. This tactic, of posting indicative images instead of more explicit child sex abuse images, was an attempt to keep the site ‘below the radar’ of law enforcement and prevent it being shut down. Having made contact through the forum, its users would meet other like-minded individuals and exchange images in different online environments.

Thompson was identified as a senior administrator within the site and found to be living in Teesside.

CEOP, which holds national responsibility for coordinating the deployment of covert investigators on the internet in child sexual abuse investigations, undertook responsibility for developing the operation on a national and international level.

Cleveland Police joined forces with CEOP and affected Thompson’s arrest and, once a copy of the server had been seized, officers were able to identify those accessing the site and undertake risk assessments, supported by the deployment of undercover internet investigators.

The Australian Federal Police, the Department for Homeland Security in the US and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police took the lead within their jurisdictions as partners in the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies working together to prevent and deter online child abuse. Suspect details were circulated internationally via Interpol, also a VGT partner.“

To save you reading through all this sewage again, here is a summary of what I think are the points of interest.

  • There is no message relating to Madeleine McCann other than the press release of 9 May 2007, which is to the effect that Madeleine is missing.
  • There is scant evidence that CEOP had any advanced facility for the detection of paedophile rings. All of the leads seem to have arisen from a victim coming forth, or originated from abroad.
  • There is only one reference to the ability to scan photographs and check them against a database. It is not clear whether this is a database of offenders or of victims. In the McCann case, a CEOP request for holiday photographs suggests the centre was trying to match against known paedophiles.
  • There is zero evidence in the CEOP files that the Algarve was a haven for British (and other) paedophiles. This does not prove that the Algarve was not a haven for British paedophiles. It simply means that CEOP was unaware of such. The track record of CEOP in this respect does not fill me with hope. CEOP was publishing details of a small number of UK paedophiles who were breaching supervision orders. I would be astonished if the number of UK paedophiles breaching supervision orders is anything like as small as the numbers posted.

Madeleine – paedophilia in Portugal – Predator and Angel Watch

If you dig through Operation Predator, you should come up with two quite different stories, and the little information I can glean is that the two initiatives are not directly linked.

In the US, Operation Predator was started in July 2003 by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to protect children from sexual predators. The Wikipedia article does not make it clear that a sexual predator is considered to be someone having certain categories of sex with a person under 18 years of age, whether that person is considered to be at or above the age of consent in the country where the ‘offence’ took place.

The major thrust of Operation Predator appears to be to detect foreign national sex offenders, with the aim of deporting them from the US.

Another strand was the PROTECT Act of 2003, designed to halt US citizens from indulging in child sex tourism to Thailand, Cambodia, Mexico and Costa Rica. US citizens were deemed to make up 25% of such sex offenders, the largest contributors.

Operation Predator in conjunction with other US organisations built up a large database of child pornography images, and appears to have an advanced capability for searching through these. Operation Predator was communicating with Interpol and appears to be linked through global systems to CEOP. Whether Madeleine McCann was ever run through the Predator database is unclear.

Operation Angel Watch is another U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement initiative. This tracks people is the sex offender registry who are considered likely to indulge in child sex tourism, and notifies destination countries when those people travel abroad. In 2007, Angel Watch sent 1,700 leads to 100 countries.

The disappearance of Madeleine McCann does not appear to fit child sex tourism for all sorts of reasons, but it would be interesting to see how many alerts were sent to Portugal around April/May 2007.

Turning to Portugal, Operation Predator was an effort that resulted in raids in early October 2007. The news appears in media reports dating from around 11 Oct 2007, but I have not found a definitive date for the raids. The operation was reported to be 6 months in the planning.

All of the media reports naming the leader of this effort say it was Paulo Rebelo. However a couple of forum reports say that Rebelo was unconnected to this, with one saying he was working on robberies. Since 2 Aug 2007 was the date at which Amaral was removed from the Madeleine McCann investigation, it seems odd that Rebelo would leave Operation Predator just as the raids were about to come to pass.

Anyway, the Portuguese Operation Predator resulted in 80 arrests with 150 devices seized (PCs and mobile phones etc.) with 75 properties searched. The main effort was in Lisbon with the Azores and Madeira being prominent. This makes it look like it might have been based on the SIS year 2000 report which named these areas, plus Porto, as the main problem zones. There is no specific mention of the Algarve, although the raids were described as being across Portugal.

The Operation Predator team were told to look for Madeleine in the materials recovered. There is no specific detail of how they did this, nor of the capability of the PJ in checking. There is no mention of this material being sent to the US Operation Predator to conduct matching using their sophisticated capabilities, nor of any contact with CEOP. I will be writing an article in the near future on CEOP to examine what they could and could not do at that time.

Madeleine would have stuck out like a sore thumb from any Portuguese children in the cache of records captured in the raid, but I have no idea whether the were other pale skin white girls aged around 4 in the photos and videos.

This check did not provide certainty, but on the balance of probability, Madeleine was not swept up in Operation Predator.

In early October 2007, Paulo Rebelo took over the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. He took a team of six PJ officers with him, all from Lisbon PJ. It seems likely that he did not wish his investigation clouded by officers who had been working the case before. Two of the officers Rebelo took with him were experienced in investigating paedophilia. Rebelo then did what Operation Grange has claimed to do. He started from afresh, re-examining from the beginning.

I have not found any follow-up media reports on Operation Predator, therefore I cannot say what happened to the 80 people arrested.

Madeleine – profile of a paedophile

A news item that caught my eye yesterday was about UK citizen Richard Huckle, who was tried in the UK and sentenced to a minimum of 23 years for a string of paedophile offences committed in Malaysia. The BBC link is

The BBC page links to other articles about Mr Huckle, that I have not yet read, so I am simply posting my thoughts on that single article. I am also assuming the BBC has got its facts right.

Most of the media stories re Madeleine McCann and paedophiles are of the sensationalist theme ‘known paedo was in the vicinity when Madeleine disappeared’. Huckle’s MO included deliberately choosing Malaysia, where he thought he could evade detection. And he targeted and befriended children from mainly poor communities. So there is no evidence of his direct involvement in the disappearance in the Algarve.

His known offences started in 2006, when he was aged around 20. His age is important. He appears to be up to date on technical knowledge, which may set him apart from paedophiles who are older. And if his offences were committed outside the UK from that age on, he would not have appeared on the UK national DNA database.

Huckle admitted 71 charges, and may have abused up to 200 children. His victims ranged from 6 months to 12 years. The article does not state whether this covered both boys and girls, but a direct quote from Huckle makes it clear that he was definitely into 3-year-old girls.

He had 20,000 photographs and videos of his abuse, shared with paedophiles on a site hidden in the Dark Net.

He was arrested in Dec 2014 on a return to the UK, after he was tracked down by the NCA’s CEOP (child exploitation and protection). He had been identified by Australian police, who also passed the details of 17 other UK men using the same site on the Dark Web. The BBC article contains further information about these men.

Huckle was in the process of writing a manual for paedophiles at the time of his arrest, and had managed to produce 60 pages.

The article has a link to how Huckle was detected, which may clarify some of the following points, but here are some of my initial musings.

CEOP does not appear to have had the capability in 2014 to detect paedophile sites on the Dark Web. That is based on the 18 UK men identified by Australian police, not CEOP, and by the sheer scale of Huckle’s on-line activity.

There must have been some contact outside of the Dark Web for these 18 to know about and gain access to the site. How does a paedophile learn about such a site? Is there some entry test a paedophile must pass before being admitted? How does the site operator prevent police officers who are hunting paedophiles from gaining entry?

Does CEOP have the capability to compare the 20,000 photographs/videos against missing children or against those who may be being abused? CEOP requested that people in the area around the time Madeleine disappeared should send them photographs, but the aim was to detect known (adult) offenders, not children.

The paedophile manual Huckle was writing was presumably of interest to authorities in at least Australia, Malaysia and the UK. If it covered Dark Web entry and how the external contact method worked, that information would be of interest worldwide.