Interpol IDs Suspect Despite Swirled Photos

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Photographs of an alleged pedophile posted on the Internet by Interpol in what reportedly was the first such effort ever made by the international law enforcement agency have reaped immediate results.

Some 350 leads resulted, and the suspect was identified by five people as Christopher Paul Neil, 32, a Canadian teaching English in South Korea until very recently. He is now being sought in a manhunt centered on Thailand, the London Times wrote.

Interpol has never before made such a public appeal for information about a suspect, leaving this up to individual countries, Reuters writes. Some questioned the agency’s decision to do so because the effort revealed the existence of crime-detection computer technology.

Neil allegedly posted hundreds of photographs of himself on the Internet that showed him sexually abusing approximately a dozen boys in Vietnam and Cambodia, according to Reuters and articles published by the London Times today and earlier. However, his face was digitally scrambled into a swirling image and seemed unidentifiable.

German police were able to reverse much of this process, producing identifiable images of a face that were then circulated by Interpol. These images have now been supplemented with a recent photograph, reportedly of the same man, taken by Thai customs at a Bangkok airport.

“The case is part of Interpol’s aim to collect every image of child abuse that exists on the Internet,” the Times said. “The organization hopes to examine each image, enabling an expert to analyze pictures of abuse as soon as they arrive in police hands.”

In addition to using the images to identify child abuse suspects, Interpol “uses sophisticated software to find connections between them, even analyzing tiny details like wallpaper and fabric patterns in apparently anonymous indoor settings,” explains another Reuters article.

So far, Interpol’s child abuse database has played a role in identifying more than 600 victims from more than 30 countries.

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