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Paedo who boasted about sex crimes on dark web faces life

Richard Huckle
Richard Huckle

One of Britain's worst paedophiles is facing multiple life sentences after he was caught bragging on the "dark web" about his horrific sex crimes against Malaysian children spanning nine years.

Freelance photographer Richard Huckle, 30, shared pictures and videos of his perverted exploits with other paedophiles worldwide and was writing a "Wiki" guide to exploiting children in poverty.

He had just "crowd-funded" his first child sex video and was hoping to turn the abuse into a "commercial enterprise" at the time of his arrest, the Old Bailey heard.

Huckle, from Ashford in Kent, admitted an unprecedented number of offences against children aged between six months and 12 years from 2006 to 2014.

Twenty-three children from mainly poor Christian families in Kuala Lumpur were identified in the 71 offences he pleaded guilty to, although it is believed Huckle abused up to 200 young victims.

The details can only now be reported because investigators had been granted a court order allowing time to get the material removed from the internet and protect the children from any future abuse.

Prosecutor Brian O'Neill QC told how Huckle targeted and groomed deprived children impressing them with his "relative wealth and status as a Westerner".

The defendant once bragged: "Impoverished kids are definitely much easier to seduce than middle class Western kids."

Born and brought up in Britain, Huckle was a loner who spent his teenage years on his computer.

The practising Christian first visited Malaysia on a teaching gap year when he was 18 or 19 and went on to groom children while doing voluntary work.

As he travelled around south-east Asia he set himself up as a respectable student, philanthropist and English teacher.

But beneath the veneer, his offending was "relentless" with some children abused over many years and even groomed to abuse each other and bow to his sexual demands.

Mr O'Neill said: "Frequently the abuse included taking photographs of those children, editing them to achieve anonymity and uploading still and moving images and graphic details of his exploits to the paedophile network TLZ (The Love Zone) on the hidden internet also known as the 'dark web'.

"Those images of child abuse will inevitably have been shared with other paedophiles and therefore been the subject of uncontrolled worldwide distribution."

Huckle shared his views on the legitimacy of paedophilia saying they were an unfairly repressed minority as he boasted of his activities in hundreds of posts over 18 months, Mr O'Neill said.

The earliest recorded incident dated back to when Huckle was just 19 years old and involved a two-year-old child in Cambodia, although the rest of his victims were in Malaysia where he had studied IT at university.

He was arrested by National Crime Agency (NCA) officers at Gatwick Airport on December 19 2014 as he arrived home for Christmas.

They seized his encrypted computer and uncovered more than 20,000 indecent images.

Huckle was in the process of writing a paedophile manual called Paedophiles And Poverty: Child Lover Guide as well as a "Pedopoints" ledger in which he detailed rapes and various sex acts.

The manual, which included tips on how to identify children and avoid detection, was on an encrypted space on Huckle's laptop ready for publication on the "dark web" through a hyperlink.

He discussed it online, saying in one post: "If you really want to fully embrace child love, poverty is the way to go."

He added that he wanted to create a "paedo Wiki guide" to help like-minded people.

And he advised that middle class children were protected "no-go areas" while the less privileged may be "ugly, ill mannered and unhealthy", the court heard.

On another occasion, Huckle bragged: "I'd hit the jackpot, a 3yo girl as loyal to me as my dog and nobody seemed to care."

His "Pedopoints" ledger was a private record of the children he had abused. He had made it a game of different types of indecent activities. Under the rules, he could not score for the same activity for the same child in the same week.

As well as being stored on his laptop, Huckle used the TLZ site to discuss his system which contained 15 categories from "basic" to "hard core". The site, which had 9,000 users worldwide, has since been shut down.

The defendant also tried to turn a profit by posting indecent footage of a three-year-old girl on a PedoFunding site.

People made payments for access to the video which was only released once Huckle's target was reached, Mr O'Neill said.

He reported making 105% of the asking price in the online currency bitcoins and thanked those who had contributed.

The prosecutor said it was clear he intended this crowd-funding activity to become a "commercial enterprise" had he not been stopped by the NCA.

In January, Huckle pleaded not guilty to 91 charges but ahead of his trial in April, he gradually admitted 71 of the offences over the course of five more hearings.

At his first plea hearing at the Old Bailey, it took more than an hour to read out all the charges.

Twenty-two of the offences he admitted to carry discretionary life sentences and 18 of these are multiple incident counts.

Huckle admitted 14 rape charges, five of digital penetration, 31 sexual assaults, six grooming offences so children were exposing or touching themselves or other children sexually; 12 counts of taking photographs, one count of making photographs and one of advertising indecent photographs plus one of arranging or facilitating child sex offences relating to the manual.

The remaining 20 counts are expected to be ordered to lie on file when Judge Peter Rook concludes sentencing on Friday.

An NSPCC spokesman said: "There is no doubt Huckle is an incredibly dangerous paedophile who must be kept away from children at all costs.

"His delight in abusing babies and toddlers - which he boasted about on the internet - shows the depths of his warped depravity.

"This case highlights the urgent need for a global effort to crack down on those who use the web to exploit and hurt vulnerable youngsters.

"And internet service providers must take responsibility to cleanse the web of these images and prevent them from being viewed in the first place."