Murderous paedophile ring uncovered
They would find evidence of a paedophile sex ring that went beyond anything the police had experienced before, and which a senior police commander described as “pure evil”.
The task team of Belgium and South African police had been tipped off days before by the internet service provider to the 37-year-old suspect.
It was only a hint of the full horror to come. The suspect had allegedly spent the previous week covering his tracks, encrypting and deleting files, films, photographs, everything he thought might incriminate him.
Everything except for one file: “rape and kill”, which he believed nobody knew of.
Nobody, except the Belgium police who had spent months “moling” him.
Using the profile of a suspected Belgium paedophile, arrested in October last year and who is currently standing trial in that country, officers from Antwerp police’s Child Sexual Exploitation Team spent months profiling a cryptic paedophile online social media website.
It was during this search that the encrypted “rape and kill” file was seen.
In the three minutes that it appeared on the site – a previously unknown meeting space for paedophiles whose alleged fetishes are the abduction, rape, torture and murder of newborn babies and infants in nappies – the Plettenburg Bay computer engineer’s internet address was copied by police.
Belgium police contacted their counterparts in Gauteng and joined forces under Operation Cloud 9.
Using specialist cyber-technology, they began tracking their target and on Tuesday morning they pounced.
They found the man asleep in his bedroom.
Police seized his laptop which Belgium police officer Chief Inspector Tim van Eester accessed, discovering traces of files said to include videos and photographs depicting violent assaults.
They also found the investigation’s “bread and butter” – the suspect’s site profile and internet addresses of 334 other alleged paedophiles.
Lieutenant-Colonel Heila Niemand, who led the South African leg of the investigation said although the arrest and discovery of the addresses was good, “all is not good”.
“The images were taken recently, some within the last week. It means these children are being abused and possibly murdered.
“The man confirmed he shared images with others in the country. Our fear is that all over the country these babies are being molested right now.”
She said it was crucial to crack the profiles to identify the culprits.
“We only have the site’s usernames, not their real identities which is what we desperately need.
“It’s the worst we have come across. The first time we have seen the abuse of babies like this.”
Van Eester said because of the 334 internet addresses on the South African’s profile there were lots of children who could be saved, “but we have to act quickly”.
“As we identify internet addresses we immediately try to profile them, to locate the children. The images are not taken in studios.
“The children were in the sanctity of their homes and bedrooms among their toys.
“(There are) conversations about children being abducted off the street and being murdered while being abused.”
“It’s men and women abusing children and using children to abuse toddlers.”
Van Eester said the trick was to work as a “mole” on the site pretending to be one of the paedophiles by taking over their accounts and notifying the authorities in the country they are operating in.”