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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 May, 2003, 12:01 GMT 13:01 UK
Britons arrested in net paedophile inquiry
An international internet paedophile ring has been targeted
An international internet paedophile ring has been targeted

Two Britons have been arrested as part of an international crackdown on an internet paedophile ring.

The men - a 36-year-old retail manager from Worcestershire and a 51-year-old ex-engineer in the Merchant Navy from Northamptonshire - are being questioned at an un-named location.

The raids on premises were part of an international police effort in five countries, which led to 21 arrests.

Forming part of a taskforce codenamed Operation Twins, the police searches follow the arrest earlier this year in the US of a senior member of a paedophile ring called The Brotherhood.

The National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) said some of those arrested on Wednesday were being interviewed in connection with making and distributing indecent images of children.

International effort

NHTCU officers worked alongside the FBI, Europol, US Customs and other law enforcement agencies to co-ordinate the arrests.

Det Supt Mick Deats, deputy head of NHTCU, said: "The results illustrate an excellent example of how international law enforcement works."

He said it showed that international partnerships could identify and bring to justice "those responsible for and engaged in serious sexual abuse of children".

The fact that these people have come together in the real world as opposed to the virtual world shows how their confidence has grown
Mick Deat, NHCTU

The raids follow the arrest of a man in Colorado by the FBI earlier in the year for grooming a child in an Internet chat room and meeting her for a sexual purpose.

Forensic tests on the suspect's computer uncovered a photograph showing seven men at a remote US farm for their annual meeting, code-named The Teddy Bear's Picnic.

Those who attended or were invited came from countries including Canada, Germany, Norway, the UK and US.

They were believed to be people who monitored bulletin boards and provided technical and security advice to members to help them avoid police.

Police information from the Teddy Bear's Picnic and other evidence led to the arrests in Europe and North America on Wednesday.

As well as the two Britons, 10 people were held in the US, seven in Germany, one in Canada and one in Norway.

'No hiding place'

Mr Deats, deputy head of NHTCU, said: "This operation has exposed the complex, sophisticated and organised hierarchical structure that online child abuse groups use to protect themselves, including their identities and the activities they are involved in.

"The fact that these people have come together in the real world as opposed to the virtual world shows how their confidence has grown."

But he added that their confidence was "misplaced" and there could be no hiding place on the internet.

He described the arrests as "a mopping up exercise", with more than 60 people identified and targeted so far.


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