KUALA LUMPUR: A British man has admitted to 71 counts of molesting Malaysian children from 2006 to 2014. The BBC reported that Richard Huckle, 30, is believed to have abused up to 200 children during his stint in the country while working as a freelance photographer and an English teacher.
The broadcaster reported that Richard Huckle faced 91 charges related to 23 children aged between 6 months and 12 years. He apparently used religion to take advantage of children from poor communities in Malaysia.
Huckle’s sentencing hearing began on Wednesday at London’s Old Bailey courthouse and is expected to end tomorrow. British authorities arrested Huckle at Gatwick Airport in December 2014, after tip-off from Australian police. Investigators found more than 20,000 indecent images on his computer, including pictures of himself abusing girls and boys. Also discovered on his computer was an encrypted manual that Huckle wrote called “Paedophiles And Poverty: Child Lover Guide”, as well as notes that he took of his rapes and sex acts. The manual was ready for publication on the “dark web”, a part of the Internet that requires specific software, configurations and authorisations to access.
This technological barrier keeps the contents of the “dark web” away from the eyes of the public and law enforcement agencies, making it a haven for various illicit activities. Sky News reported that Huckle’s crimes were so serious that prosecutors planned three trials as they feared that one jury could not cope with viewing all the sordid videos and photographs. At his first plea hearing at the Old Bailey, it took more than an hour to read out all the charges. “I’d hit the jackpot, a 3 year old girl as loyal to me as my dog and nobody seemed to care,” one charge cited Huckle as saying.
At an earlier hearing, Judge Peter Rook QC told Huckle the charges amounted to “sexual offending of the utmost gravity” and said he was “considering life sentences in your case”. In a video posted on the BBC’s website, one of the victims was quoted as saying that she met Huckle in a church and that he started coming her house to speak to victim’s mother. The victim was identified as “Maria”, but was never shown nor heard directly, with her account related by a voiceover. Maria said Huckle had taken a video of her naked. “I was scared and couldn’t do anything. I got scared every time he took me out,” she told the BBC’s Angus Crawford in the video. “He started taking photos of me from the time I was 3 years old. “He showed photos of myself, and then photos of my sister. And I got angry. “They were photos that showed our nude bodies.” Crawford asked the victim how she felt about her abuser. “I don’t want to come back to Malaysia. I want him in prison forever,” she said.
The series of events that led to Huckle’s arrest began in Australia, where police arrested the webmaster of a dark-web paedophile site called “Love Zone”. The police unit that did the arrest, Task Force Argos, then assumed the identity of the webmaster, Shannon McCoole, and took over the running of the site. They found one user who had stood out as particularly prolific and aggressive – Huckle. Using data and information gleaned from the site and other open internet sites, they homed in on his identity and location. They tipped of British police when they realised that Huckle would be going home for Christmas.
The sentencing of the Briton comes amid heightened concern over American and British online paedophile rings targeting Malaysian children. Last month, it was reported that these sexual predators would “groom” children to record videos of themselves over the Internet. Inspector-General of police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said the Children’s Cyber Sexual Investigation Team was tracking down the “recruiters”.