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the union flag bed cover that helped police snare a beast; SPECIAL REPORT HARROWING HUNT FOR CLUES IN VILE IMAGES OF ABUSE Cops' innovative approach tracks down paedophiles and victims faster.

PAUL O'HARE IDENTIFYING victims of online sex abuse is one of the most harrowing jobs in policing.

And the officers who have to watch such sickening material find it hard to escape the horror.

Detective Sergeant Stewart Gailey said: "You often can't see any faces so it makes the investigation very challenging.

"The most difficult images to view are the ones where you can quite clearly see that the victims have been self-harming. From a personal perspective, they are the most upsetting."

It's impossible to imagine what Gailey and his colleagues experience in order to rescue child victims and bring beasts to justice.

To get an insight into the nightmarish work, I asked what was the worst thing he had encountered. His answer made me wish I hadn't.

Gailey replied: "It's probably got to be videos of the sexual abuse of babies where you can hear them cry. Some are just months old."

In the last two years Gailey has investigated offenders ranging from secondary-age schoolboys - for sending explicit selfies of fellow pupils - to pensioners.

And the amount of material amassed by prolific paedophiles takes the breath away.

In one case last year, a monster was found to have more than a million images.

Gailey added: "I am surprised at the number of offenders out there and by the number of people who are willing to view and distribute indecent images of child exploitation."

The priority for detectives in the Cyber Crime Unit is identifying victims. They have to look beyond the child in the image or video for clues that will bring perpetrators to justice.

In one recent case, a 21-yearold suspect admitted secretly filming kids in the toilets of the youth group where he worked.

When the focus switched to his home in the west of Scotland, forensic experts joined officers for the search.

This innovative approach, which mirrors the treatment of major crime scenes, was devised by Police Scotland to fast-track the identification of offenders.

Three devices were found which contained 121 images. Detective Inspector Andy McWilliam, head of the Cyber Crime Unit (West), said officers scrutinise footage to work out the child's age and identity. He said: "We will look at their ethnicity, the landscape, clothing and anything in the background.

"In this case there was a flag on the bed the child was lying on and we were able to identify that it was Union Jack bedding.

"This allowed us to identify that it was the cousin of the offender, who we were investigating for other offences.

"The child lived in the same street as the offender and confirmed he had been sexually abused by this individual."

McWilliam hailed the procedure developed by the team in Glasgow for a swift conclusion to the investigation.

He said: "The process was completely innovative and wasn't used anywhere else in Europe. We take the lab and the forensic staff out to scenes.

"Identifying offences on computers was cut from three months to one day.

"By developing that process and training our staff in those tactics we have been able to charge more than 1700 individuals with offences involving the online abuse of children since April 2013."

Forces across the UK have adopted the same techniques.

When a suspect has been identified as sharing indecent images, police and forensic analysts visit their home.

State-of-the-art equipment is plugged into computers, mobiles and hard drives to scan for child sex abuse images.

In minutes, the technology can check if a device contains illegal material. Items are taken to the unit's lab for further analysis and erased photos and video can be recovered.

McWilliam warned: "The days of offenders thinking they can delete images and not be traced are long gone. If you are going to look at such material, then we are going to catch you."

Seized footage is fed into a database which collates all images and videos in the UK.

McWilliam said: "It allows us to identify victims more quickly. If we upload an image to the database, it will tell us if it has been seen anywhere else in the UK and alerts other units to look out for that child."

Paedophiles often continue to deny their involvement when they are finally cornered.

McWilliam said: "They will typically say, 'It's not me, it must be a video off the internet.' "We can say, 'Let's go to your bedroom. The bedding is identical. There is the flag used to drape around the victim. Your wallpaper is the same.

"We aim to overwhelm them with the amount of evidence we have so they have no other option but to put their hands up to it."

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No hiding place on dark web CRIMINALS often use the so-called dark web to try to hide their sickening trade.

They use websites which cannot be found using search engines and their identity is hidden by an encryption tool.

But police are tracking down more perverts who think they have covered their tracks. Detective Inspector Andy McWilliam said: "The dark web is not the hiding place that some people perceive it to be."

Police are also targeting those using filesharing sites to allow others to view footage. McWilliam said: "We have managed to trace those images and identify offenders."

Sick predators are now behind bars He preyed on five-week-old A PAEDOPHILE postman filmed himself abusing two babies - including a girl aged just five weeks old.

Police swooped at Johnathan Forshaw's home in Campbeltown, Argyll, and found more than 21,000 indecent images of kids.

The material had been downloaded from websites and via Skype between 2005 and 2014.

Detectives discovered the first victim was less than a year old when he was attacked while the girl was just over a month old when Forshaw first molested her.

The 34-year-old was jailed for life last summer.

OAP's ad for schoolgirl PENSIONER Antonius Van Hesteren put an advert online looking for an "adventurous schoolgirl".

He believed he had arranged to meet a 12-year-old girl but wept in court when it was revealed the only person to respond to his request on the Craigslist website was an undercover police officer. The depraved 70-year-old, who has previous convictions for possessing indecent images of children, sent lewd messages in April last year in Beith, Ayrshire.

Sentencing him to 23 months in jail, Sheriff Shirley Foran said: "I consider you to be a serious risk to young females in whom you have an unhealthy interest."

Pervert lured Xbox teen PREDATOR Sean Clode groomed a 14-year-old girl for sex after befriending her while playing an Xbox game online.

The pair met through Call of Duty and communicated almost every day for nine months.

In 2013, the teenager disappeared from her home in northern Scotland and took a train to the pervert's home town of Hartlepool.

Clode, 21, had sex with the girl in a tent on sand dunes on the outskirts of the town. He was convicted of sexual grooming, abduction and two charges of sexual activity with a child and was jailed for six years at Teesside Crown Court.

The worst are videos of sexual abuse of babies and you can hear them cry DS STEWART GAILEYIf you are going to look at material like this, then we are going to catch you DI ANDY MCWILLIAM


ON THE CASE DS Stewart Gailey and DI Andy McWilliam. Pic: Alasdair MacLeod
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 5, 2016
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