LONDON • A British paedophile who has admitted to a string of sex attacks on children as young as six months old, many of them from poor families in Malaysia, faces life in prison, according to the judge hearing his case.
Richard Huckle, 30, took pictures and video footage of himself abusing the children which he uploaded to the dark web, a hard-to-access part of the Internet often used for illegal activity, reported Agence France-Presse.
He was described by one investigator from the National Crime Agency (NCA) as "one of the most committed, manipulative, conniving paedophiles" they had encountered. Investigators found more than 20,000 indecent images on his computer. Huckle also kept a ledger of his attacks and wrote a manual called Paedophiles And Poverty: Child Lover Guide that he intended to publish online.
Investigators believe he abused up to 200 young victims after persuading their families he was a respectable Christian philanthropist, reported The Guardian.
Graphic details of dozens of sexual offences by Huckle emerged for the first time on Wednesday as his sentencing hearing started in London. "Impoverished kids are definitely much, much easier to seduce than middle-class Western kids; I still plan to publish a guide on this subject," he boasted on paedophile forums, reported The Guardian.
Huckle, faces a total of 91 charges, including multiple counts of rape and sexual assault, some of which pertained to 23 children in Kuala Lumpur, where he set himself up as an English teacher. His earliest recorded abuse, when he was 19, involved a two-year-old in Cambodia.
Huckle even sought to crowdfund his abuse online using Bitcoin, the court heard. He posted footage of a three-year-old and raised 105 per cent of the funding target.
Huckle was arrested at London Gatwick airport in December 2014 as he returned to Britain from Malaysia for Christmas. He initially denied all 91 charges but later admitted to 71 of them, according to Agence France-Presse.
Judge Peter Rook at London's Central Criminal Court said the charges he had admitted to "amount to sexual offending of the utmost gravity and as a result I am considering life sentences in your case". The sentencing hearing is expected to conclude today.
"There is no doubt that the quantity and quality of the offending of this particular individual would have increased had he not been arrested. He is only 30 years of age, so we can only imagine what sort of offending he had in front of him," said Mr Tony Cook, the head of operations at the NCA's Child Exploitation and Online Protection command.
Malaysian police are taking steps to identify Huckle's victims, reported Bernama news agency.
"We have asked for the information repeatedly and will continue to press them for more information for follow-up action.
"Hopefully, after the court judgment on Friday, the authorities in the United Kingdom can provide us with more information," said the Federal Police's Sexual, Women and Child Investigation Division's assistant principal director, ACP Ong Chin Lan.