The takeover: how police ended up running a paedophile site
Exclusive: the inside story of a police operation that secretly took over a child abuse forum in a six-month sting, and the stunning breakthrough that led them to snaring Richard Huckle, Britains worst-ever paedophile
It was one of the worlds largest and most secure paedophile networks an online space where tens of thousands traded horror.
The website dealt in abuse; video and images of children, swapped and boasted about on a dark-web forum, accessible only through an encrypted browser.
Membership was tightly managed. Quiet accounts raised suspicion and could be suddenly terminated. Those who stayed had to upload new material frequently. More than 45,000 people complied.
But what those thousands never realised, even as heavy users began to disappear, was that the site was being run by police.
For six months in 2014, inside a pale office block in the Australian city of Brisbane, an elite squad of detectives were administering the site: analysing images, monitoring conversations, connecting users with their crimes.
By the time they pulled the plug on the forum 85 children had been rescued and hundreds of people across the globe arrested.
Among them was Richard Huckle, a 30-year-old Briton living in Malaysia, one of the boards most prolific members.