The Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) in Wiesbaden and the Central Office for the Suppression of Cybercrime (GDR) in Giessen aired the picture of a pedophile who had shown his face in videos uploaded to darknet child abuse forums. The two police forces jointly issued a press release on March 26, 2018, that explained the situation and called for public assistance. Not even a full day later, the BKA updated their website to reflect the search’s new status: “search finished.”
The BKA has admitted the tactic is highly unusual and often a last resort. However, following the takedown of one major child abuse forum and one smaller forum, the public has proven incredibly useful in the few extreme cases where German authorities have called for their assistance identifying people seen in videos uploaded to darknet child abuse forums.
“Who can provide information about the suspect and his current whereabouts,” the BKA asked. “Who can provide any other useful information?”
During their investigation into members of a child abuse forum, the BKA found 3,800 videos and pictures that depicted the sexual abuse of at least two children between 7-10 years old. Although the investigators could not successfully determine the number of victims in the videos and pictures, they managed to get several surprisingly clear pictures of the child abuser’s face. (The 3,800 files showed the man abusing two or more children on 12 separate occasions; each file did not represent an unique session of abuse.)
Highly trained BKA investigators determined the rough age of the man and the approximate age of the children in his videos. The man, from their estimation, was between 40 and 45 years old. The children in the videos—all young boys—were between the ages of 7-10 years old. But the BKA discovered that even though the videos had surfaced on the darknet forum in 2017, the actual abuse had taken place in 2014. The police had no idea if the man had continued to abuse the children or had taken more victims. They did not even know who the victims were.
Given the clarity of the photos taken by the pedophile, it was unlikely he had even taken steps to maintain anonymity on the darknet. The BKA’s inability to identify him seemed somewhat unusual as they have identified and arrested suspects who left far less of a trail for police to follow than the man seen in the pictures they uploaded to government websites.
Fortunately for the BKA and his victims, the search ended quickly. They have not yet provided the public with details beyond “search finished.”