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11 January 2008

Child abuse suspect arrested after first ever INTERPOL public appeal appears in Thai court

A suspected paedophile whose arrest followed an unprecedented worldwide appeal for information by INTERPOL has appeared at a court hearing in Bangkok. The 32-year-old Canadian, Christopher Paul NEIL, pleaded not guilty on Friday to charges of molesting under-age children in Thailand. The court set 10 March as the start of the trial in which NEIL faces up to 20 years in jail if convicted.

NEIL was arrested in Thailand on 19 October following the launch of INTERPOL’s Operation VICO, an international man-hunt triggered by the unravelling and publication of his digitally-scrambled face from images of abuse found on the Internet. His arrest by Royal Thai Police came just 10 days after INTERPOL launched an unprecedented global public appeal to identify the man featured in a series of more than 200 images of child sex abuse.

Operation VICO was INTERPOL’s first ever public appeal for information in which it published photos of an unknown man photographed sexually abusing young boys in Vietnam and Cambodia. The appeal itself generated another record, with more than 1.6 million page views of INTERPOL’s website on 8 October, the day of the appeal.

Within three days of the appeal, working with its National Central Bureaus in 186 member countries, INTERPOL was able to obtain NEIL’S name, nationality, date of birth, passport number, and current and previous places of work. INTERPOL received hundreds of statements from the public in response to the appeal, and as a result of information provided to INTERPOL by five different sources from three continents, the suspected child abuser was identified as a man teaching English at a school in South Korea.

NEIL’s photos had been digitally manipulated to disguise his face, but computer specialists at Germany's federal police agency, the Bundeskriminalamt (BKA), worked with INTERPOL’s specialists to produce identifiable images.