CHILD ABUSE

English teacher arrested in Benidorm for filming naked children

The UK national allegedly made more than a thousand recordings by hacking into home surveillance cameras and also filmed one of his students

A child using a cellphone. Video: footage of the raid on the suspected pedophile in Benidorm (Spanish audio and text).AFP / PAUL CROCK | VÍDEO: EFE

The National Police have arrested a United Kingdom national in Benidorm for making more than a thousand recordings of naked children, including two who were located in Spain. The detainee is alleged to have made the videos by hacking into the home surveillance cameras of more than 70 families across the world.

The suspect, who gave private English classes and also worked as a babysitter, allegedly sexually abused at least 11 children via video chat. He is accused of filming them naked, and in some cases threatening them. The man was also very active on social media networks on the so-called “dark web” and had created a system to sell child pornography in exchange for bitcoins or images of abuse filmed by his clients, the National Police explained in a press release.

The UK national, who was arrested on similar child abuse charges when he was a minor, is now in pre-trial detention.

Police found more than a thousand videos taken from cameras from 70 families in countries including Brazil, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada

The investigation began when officers from Task Force Argos, a branch of the Queensland Police Service in Australia responsible for targeting online child exploitation and abuse, found sexual images of a child in the Pacific region. After analyzing the images, the Australian officers discovered that they had been modified and were originally uploaded in Spain. Spanish police were informed and worked with the Queensland team to identify and arrest the culprit.

The investigation was able to track the images to the UK national who went by different names on several online forums for pedophiles on the dark web. One of the new user names, created as a precautionary measure to avoid detection, was used to distribute images of the sexual abuse of two nine-year-old children in two different countries. By discreetly monitoring the suspect’s online activities, officers also discovered that he worked as a babysitter and gave private English classes to at least 10 students – a fact that alarmed police, who rushed to arrest him.

After learning that the individual lived in Benidorm, a popular tourist destination in Spain’s Valencia region, police were granted court approval to raid his home. During this operation, they found enough evidence to arrest him, including numerous notes on his usernames and the techniques he used to avoid being tracked online. Officers also seized printed documents, eight hard drives, two USB memory sticks, two cellphones and a laptop.

During the raid, police found images of sexual abuse against children and records of cryptocurrency exchanges and money transfers to Romania via people involved in child prostitution. Officers later discovered that the detainee had allegedly organized a system to sell child pornography in exchange for bitcoin. According to police, the suspect also offered images in exchange for photos of abuse against children committed by his clients. He is also accused of acting as an intermediary between producers and consumers of child pornography, a role for which he charged a commission.

Police have accused the detainee of committing the child abuse captured in one of the photos. It is also suspected that he was hired by an adult to provide sexual images of a child known to the client, for €80 a photo. According to the investigation, the remaining images found were allegedly from his exchange business. In other cases, police suspect that he did not send anything to his clients, and instead just kept the money, given that he would not be reported. He is estimated to have made between €1,700 and €2,500 from the child pornography network.

Security vulnerabilities

Experts from the National Police carried out a detailed analysis of the material seized in the raid, using modern techniques and forensic tools. Based on this work, they concluded that the detainee had hacked security cameras – technically known as IP cameras – located inside a home. These devices are commonly used by parents to allow them to keep watch over their children when they are not at home, as the footage can be accessed via a cellphone application. But if the camera is not properly configured, it is vulnerable to interception, police warn.

In this case, police found more than a thousand videos from 70 families in countries including Brazil, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. Nearly all the illegal recordings featured children, who often appeared naked. With respect to the Spanish users in Spain, the National Police said the culprits will soon be identified.

Officers also discovered signs that the detainee had recorded at least one of his students, without their knowledge, and tried to film their underwear. The investigation also found that the UK national had allegedly sexually abused at least 11 children via video chats, filming them naked and threatening them in some cases. Police said they have obtained data that could help identify one of the 11 victims.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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