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25 November 2008

International paedophile caught after INTERPOL’s global manhunt is convicted and sentenced for second time by Thai court

BANGKOK, Thailand – A Thai court has sentenced a Canadian national to six more years in jail for sexually abusing a young boy, in the second guilty verdict against the man arrested in Thailand last year following an unprecedented INTERPOL global public appeal for help in identifying a man photographed sexually abusing children.

Christopher Paul NEIL, aged 33, had already been convicted and sentenced in August this year to more than three years in prison for abusing a 13-year-old Thai boy. On November 14, Neil was found guilty of three more charges of abusing the 13-year-old’s brother, who was nine at the time. In the second verdict just released by Thailand's Criminal Court, the judge gave the former teacher a nine-year prison sentence for abuse and illegal detention of a minor.

The sentence was reduced to six years after the judge said Neil had co-operated during the trial. He had confessed to molesting the older brother but denied the charges in the second case.

Neil was arrested by the Royal Thai Police on 19 October 2007, just 11 days after INTERPOL launched its global public appeal known as Operation Vico. The appeal was initiated after German police computer experts successfully produced clear images of Neil's face, which had been digitally swirled to disguise his image in more than 200 images of child sex abuse found on the Internet.

INTERPOL received more than 300 tips from the public in response to the appeal, with five people naming Neil – then teaching young students English in the Republic of Korea – as a potential match.

INTERPOL shared its leads with Thai police on 11 October as Neil fled Korea to Thailand in the hope of evading arrest.

The Royal Thai Police immediately followed up on the leads, identified Thai child victims, and on 18 October, issued an arrest warrant for Neil and INTERPOL published a Red Notice – an international wanted persons notice to prevent Neil fleeing Thailand.

“Neil’s convictions for the sexual abuse of poor, innocent children in Southeast Asia halfway around the globe from his country of nationality, Canada, demonstrate that INTERPOL, police worldwide and the public will work together to catch international child rapists wherever they might run or try to hide, “said INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald K. Noble.

“Operation Vico, which led to the arrest and conviction of Christopher Paul Neil, was only the beginning; INTERPOL plans to continue to draw on the public’s support to identify child sex rapists and abusers whenever traditional law enforcement means do not succeed,” said Kristin Kvigne, Assistant Director of INTERPOL’s Trafficking in Human Beings unit. “Let the next child rapist who films his crime and places it on the Internet worry about when he will become the focus of INTERPOL’s next global manhunt.”

Neil’s two sentences will run consecutively, the court said.