At least eight men have killed themselves after being unmasked by pedophile hunters since the trend of volunteers posing as children online started several years ago in the UK, according to the BBC.
Pedophile hunters snare people with fake social media profiles, engaging with them until the unsuspecting adult arranges a meet-up. The volunteers then inform police, film the encounter, and post the video online, where it could be viewed hundreds of thousands of times.
The “naming and shaming,” according to new BBC research, has led to at least eight deaths in the UK over the last six years; roughly the time since the trend began.
Most of the people killed themselves within days of being caught, according to the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme.
One woman, whose surname is withheld, described how her father committed suicide after a video appeared on Facebook of him as he encountered pedophile hunters, thinking he was meeting with a 15-year-old girl.
She told the programme, “My friend said, ‘look, I don’t really know how to say this to you Lesley, but there’s a video going round on Facebook—it’s your dad.'”
“I just sort of sat in shock,” she said.
“It was on Facebook and I could already see mutual friends had viewed it, so there was nothing I could do.
“I must have been screaming because my daughter was upstairs… she could hear me screaming, and she asked me what was wrong.”
She told her daughter, then also aged 15, that “your grandad’s a pedophile.”
Her father, Michael Duff, 67, handed himself into the police the same day that the video appeared, July 11, 2015. Police confiscated his computer, and he was released after questioning. Two days later, he killed himself.
Various pedophile hunter groups have come and gone over the last few years in the UK, with over a dozen major groups typically in operation, snaring people who think they are meeting children as young as 11.
Getting the Green Light
One of the longest-running groups, Dark Justice, has led to 163 arrests 92 convictions and 42 jail terms, according to their website.
The two-man outfit was at the center of a landmark court case two years ago which effectively gave the green light for pedophile hunters to continue with the blessing of the law.
On April 6, the court rejected the argument that Dark Justice should be subject to the same regulations on intelligence gathering as public bodies.
Dark Justice says that if it had lost the case, almost 100 convictions could have been overturned and dozens of ongoing prosecutions abandoned.
Pedophile hunter groups have sometimes been criticized for meting out vigilante justice, and for the occasional eruption of violence.
One pedophile hunter group, called the Hunted One, disappeared after a sting operation at a shopping mall descended into a brawl as it was being broadcast on Facebook live.
A spokesperson for the group, who called himself Ben Bleach, had spoken to the Epoch Times a few days before the incident.
Bleach said some people who watch the videos complain about group members’ swearing when they’re confronting alleged pedophiles and waiting for the police.
I’m Still Telling Myself It’s Not My Fault’
“Until you actually read through a whole chat [with a pedophile] from start to finish, you never realize how sick and twisted it all is,” Bleach told the Epoch Times in a previous interview. “When you are sitting there with them face to face, it is very hard. I’d rather sit there and swear at someone than stand there and [hit] him.”
Pedophile Hunter Jamie Lee, who calls himself a “child protection enforcer” told the BBC, “We’re not doing it to incite violence, incite hatred—we’re doing it because if they were living next door to me I’d want to know.”
Lee was behind the sting that led to a jail term for a man that the BBC refers to only as Robert, who pleaded guilty to attempting to engage in sexual communication with a child.
Robert killed himself after being released from prison.
Jamie says he “never expected” that to happen.
“My goal is for these men to face what [they’ve] done.
“I was devastated when I found out Robert had killed himself, more so for his family.”
“I’m still telling myself it’s not my fault —I just feel slightly guilty that a man has lost his life because of the way I approached it.”