Within just three days of issuing its global, online appeal for public help in identifying a suspected pedophile last week, Interpol had already determined the suspect’s name, nationality, date of birth, passport number, and current and previous places of work, the agency announced Monday.
Images of the man had been posted online showing him sexually abusing 12 different young boys in Vietnam and Cambodia, but his face in the photos had been digitally altered to hide his identity. The operation is dubbed “Vico” for its ties to Vietnam and Cambodia.
Interpol’s Trafficking in Human Beings unit, working with specialists from the Bundeskriminalamt (BKA) in Germany, managed to descramble the images and produce an identifiable picture, leading to last Monday’s global appeal.
About 350 people around the world contacted Interpol in response, the agency said. Using information provided by five of those sources on three continents, it has identified the man as Christopher Paul Neil, an English teacher from a school in South Korea. The Canadian man is now believed to be hiding in Thailand.
An International Manhunt
“The response and contribution we have had from the public has been remarkable, as has the support from the media, which has enabled officers in our specialized unit, our office in Bangkok and police in other member countries to make such remarkable progress in such a short space of time,” said Interpol Secretary General Ronald K. Noble.
Authorities in South Korea and the Kingdom of Thailand have revealed that the man flew from Seoul to Bangkok International Airport last Thursday, with security cameras documenting his arrival at immigration. Interpol published this new image Monday as part of police efforts to find him.
“Thailand is at the center of an international manhunt, and authorities in the country, in cooperation with Interpol and police around the world, are hunting him down,” Noble said. “We must once again enlist the public’s support, this time to pinpoint Vico’s current location.”
Interpol urges anyone with information on the man’s current whereabouts to contact their local police or Interpol via www.interpol.int.
Power to Do Good
“This is really amazing,” Parry Aftab, cyber-crime lawyer and executive director of WiredSafety.org, told TechNewsWorld.
“Everyone’s always talking about the dangers of the Internet, but few people understand the true power of the Internet to do good,” Aftab said. “Whether it’s finding suspected criminals, or birth parents, or someone you went to camp with in the third grade, the Internet is a wonderful way to get help with your effort.”
People in Thailand use the Internet frequently, Aftab added, which could aid in Interpol’s search. “My guess is that a lot of people who might be uncomfortable calling the police, or who might be concerned about the credibility of the local police, will be very happy to send an e-mail to Interpol to help in this effort.”
Interpol’s quick identification of this suspected pedophile “is proof of how the power of the Internet can be used to find cyber-criminals, child molesters and other people we need to find,” Aftab concluded. “Once again, the Net has come to the aid of those who have needed it.”