[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Monday, 18 June 2007, 18:36 GMT 19:36 UK
Paedophile ring smashed by police
Timothy Cox
Timothy Cox saw a "gap in the market", the court heard
Police have smashed a global child abuse network which was co-ordinated through a UK-based internet site.

Global agencies, led by UK investigators, examined more than 700 suspects, including 200 in the UK.

The ring was run by Timothy Cox, 28, of Buxhall, Suffolk, who admitted nine offences and has been handed a sentence which could mean he dies in jail.

A judge at Ipswich Crown Court told Cox: "You are obsessed with images of children being sexually abused."

Chatroom infiltration

Cox ran a website called "Kids the Light of Our Lives" which let users exchange abuse images, the court heard.

Judge Peter Thompson told Cox: "These are shocking images which involve very young children - in the worst cases being subjected to sadistic, painful abuse which you, for some distorted reason, appear to take enjoyment from."

Anybody who thinks they can carry out such horrific activities undetected is in for a rude awakening
Jim Gamble

More than 75,000 indecent and explicit images were found on Cox's computer and there was evidence that he had supplied more than 11,000 images to other site users.

Cox pleaded guilty to possessing and distributing indecent images of children at an earlier hearing and was handed an indeterminate sentence.

Cox posed "significant risks", the judge said, and had to be imprisoned for "for public protection".

Under the terms of his sentence, he must satisfy the authorities that he is fit for release and does not pose any threat to the community before he can ever be set free.

Ian Robertson, of the UK-based Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre (CEOP), told BBC News 24 that the ages of the children whose images were exchanged on the site ranged from babies to teenagers.

After he was arrested in September 2006, undercover officers spent 10 days infiltrating the chatroom, assuming his identity to collect evidence about other users.

When Cox was arrested, undercover officers placed a message online saying he had gone for his tea and would be back in half an hour to avoid raising suspicions.

As many as 70 online paedophiles were waiting to download images of abuse.

Investigators from the Australian Federal Police, the US Department of Homeland Security and Toronto Police took part in the online surveillance operation.

In total, 31 children were saved as a result of the investigation, CEOP said.

Cox lived with his parents, sister and 26-year-old girlfriend in a large farmhouse and worked at the family's micro-brewery. The website was operated from his bedroom.

CEOP said Cox hosted the website using the pseudonym "Son of God" - a reference to "G.O.D", the online identity of the owner of another paedophile site shut down by police last year.

The court heard Cox spotted a "gap in the market" after the other site was closed.

Simon Spence, prosecuting, told the court: "For what must have been hours at a time he was online either viewing these images of children, arranging the chat room or communicating with other paedophiles."

'Horrific activities'

"Kids the Light of Our Lives" website
Canadian police passed intelligence about the site to UK investigators

Jim Gamble of CEOP said his capture "sends a powerful warning to those using the internet to facilitate the sexual exploitation of children".

He added: "From the apparent 'safety' of his home, Cox spent hours each day planning, promoting and encouraging the abuse and exploitation of children.

"In doing so he provided a service to hundreds of like-minded individuals, enabling those with a sexual interest in children to share indecent images and discuss further plans for abuse.

"Anybody who thinks they can carry out such horrific activities undetected is in for a rude awakening."

Cox had been identified after intelligence connecting the site to the UK was passed to CEOP by Canadian investigators.

Detective Constable Stefan Jochan said: "He doesn't fit any kind of traditional image of paedophile. He had a veneer of respectability."

The investigation uncovered another member of the same ring, Gordon Mackintosh from Hertfordshire, who attempted to keep the website going after Cox was arrested.

Mackintosh, 33, used the names "silentblackheart" and "lust4skoolgurls". More than 5,000 images were found on his computer as well as 392 indecent movie files.

He pleaded guilty to 27 charges of making, possessing and distributing the material and is due to be sentenced on June 29.

How police smashed the paedophile ring

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific