A British man has pleaded guilty to 96 counts of sexual abuse involving 51 boys between the ages of 4 to 14, the National Crime Agency said on Monday.
David Nicholas Wilson, 36, from Norfolk, who works as a labourer, targeted over 5,000 children worldwide via social media, with over 500 sending him indecent images.
In a statement the National Crime Agency (NCA) said Wilson was one of the most prolific offenders they’d ever investigated and that “he created a series of fake online identities to contact young boys on Facebook and other social media platforms.”
Using unregistered mobile phones, Wilson would pretend to be young teenage girls, building trust with his victims over time. He would send sexual images of girls taken from the internet and ask the boys to send images of themselves in return. Next he would embark on a cycle of blackmail forcing the boys to send him more extreme footage, and in some cases footage of them abusing younger siblings and friends.
In some instances, Wilson distributed the images to the victims’ friends.
The NCA stated that Wilson, of Kirstead, King’s Lynn, showed no signs of compassion toward his victims even when they begged him to stop. He inflicted such suffering upon the children that some of them said they wanted to end their lives.
Tony Cook, the NSA’s head of CSA operations, said in the statement, “He was able to gain the boys’ trust and exploit their use of social media using well practiced techniques to convince them he was genuinely a young female who was interested in them. He then manipulated or forced them to send images of themselves or other children which he craved.
“He knew the anguish victims were suffering but ignored any pleas from them to stop until he got what he wanted from them. Wilson retained material the children had sent and used the threat of sharing it among their friends to control them.”
Speaking to Sky News, one of the victim’s mother’s said that Wilson had taken her son’s innocence completely, adding, “You’re strict and you think you’re doing a good job, then you unknowingly let a paedophile through your front door and into your child’s bedroom.”
Message Encryption Concerns
The arrest of Wilson was made possible through the help of Facebook, with the social media giant managing to detect and capture information sent by Wilson’s victims across their messaging platform, which was later used in Wilson’s conviction.
Facebook passed the information to the NCMEC—the U.S. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children—which forwarded the material to the NCA for investigation.
Rob Jones, the NCA’s director of threat leadership, expressed concern that current plans to further encrypt the messaging platform would make it much harder to catch offenders like Wilson in the future.
“The NCA, wider law enforcement, and child safety groups are clear that the move will turn the lights out for policing and effectively provide cover for offenders such as Wilson. Facebook Messenger is already protected by strong encryption that still enables the company to detect grooming and known abuse images.”
Wilson will be sentenced on Jan. 12, 2021.