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Monday, 12 February, 2001, 16:44 GMT
Paedophiles' vast 'lending library'
Part of a domain name
Indecent material depicted children in sexual acts
A vast "lending library" of images of child abuse was built up by the world's biggest internet paedophile gang, a court has heard.

Seven British men, were members of the so-called Wonderland Club, have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute indecent images of children.

They face a maximum of three years' imprisonment at Kingston Crown Court.

The paedophile ring was smashed by Operation Cathedral, the largest ever international operation to be co-ordinated by the National Crime Squad in London.

All of the children involved were under the age of 16 and in one case the child was only three months

David Perry QC
Prosecuting
The defendants are:

  • Ian Baldock, 31, from St Leonards, East Sussex.

  • Antoni Skinner, 36, from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

  • Gavin Seagers, 29, a Sea Cadets youth leader, from Dartford, Kent.

  • Ahmet Ali, 30, from Tulse Hill, south London.

  • Frederick Stephens, 46, from Hayes, west London.

  • Andrew Barlow, 25, from Bletchley, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire.

  • David Hines, 30, of Bognor Regis, West Sussex.

    A total of 107 people were arrested in the UK, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and the United States.

    An eighth man, Gary Salt, is serving 12 years after being convicted in Manchester of rape.

    A further member of the group, Steven Ellis, 40, from Norwich, committed suicide after his arrest.

    'Secret and secure underworld'

    David Perry QC, prosecuting, said the defendants had a "secret and secure" underworld.

    He told the court: "Each of them was involved in the distribution of indecent material on the internet throughout the world.

    "The indecent material depicted children involved in sexual acts with adults and also with other children.

    "All of the children involved were under the age of 16 and in one case the child was only three months - in many cases the children were aged two or three years and the vast majority were under 10.

    "Each had a huge quantity of indecent images stored in the hard drives of their computers and on compact discs."

    Hand on mouse
    Police seized 750,000 computer images of children
    "It was a vast international lending library whose members swapped a vast quantity of paedophile images," Mr Perry said.

    "Each had a huge quantity of indecent images stored in the hard drives of their computers and on compact discs," the court heard.

    The defendants' homes were raided on 2 September 1998.

    The court heard that an enormous amount of pictures were uncovered.

    When Baldock - whose nickname was Sheepy - was arrested in October 1997, detectives found 45,000 images of children, mostly aged about four or five, Mr Perry said.

    The jury heard that Hines - known as Mutt's Nuts - admitted having a cache of about 12,000 paedophile images.

    Seagers - whose nickname was Hopeful - had at least 46,000 encrypted images on his computer, the court heard.

    Child
    Tracking the children in the images is like hunting a needle in a haystack
    Skinner - known as Uhura, or Satan - used a "highly sophisticated" method of encryption and officers could only detect 390 images, Mr Perry said.

    Ali - whose nickname was Caesar - had stored 13,000 images and Barlow, who was known as Mix, had at least 24,000, the court heard.

    Stephens, who used the nicknames Guess Who? or Me Again, had 8,920 images and 643 video images, Mr Perry told the court.

    Mr Perry said an album of the children involved had been created and posted on Interpol's website to help police forces from around the world could trace the victims of abuse.

    More than 1,263 children were featured in the pictures - but only 17 had been identified - six in the UK, seven in the United States, one in Portugal, one in Chile, and one in Argentina.

    The case was adjourned on Monday evening and the seven were remanded in custody pending sentencing on Tuesday.


  • Talking PointFORUM
    BBC News Online Forum with National Crime Squad deputy director Bob Packham Monday 1345GMTCybercrime
    National Crime Squad's Bob Packham quizzed

    The Wonderland Club: Panorama on Sunday Jan 21 at 2215gmt
    Child porn ring exposed

    See also:

    11 Feb 01 | Archive
    06 May 00 | Science/Nature
    27 Jan 00 | World
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