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16 October 2017, 17:13
An academic at Birmingham university’s pleaded guilty to 137 abuse charges including child sexual exploitation.
Dr Matthew Falder, also admitted charges of voyeurism, making and distributing indecent images of children and encouraging the rape of a four-year-old.
Since 2010, the Birmingham University employee from Edgbaston, degraded and humiliated more than 50 victims online using the names "666devil" and “evilmind”.
The 28-year-old posed as a female on sites such as Gumtree to trick his victims into sending him naked or partially-clothed images of themselves.
The disgraced geophysicist then threatened to expose his victims if they did not send severe and depraved abuse images of themselves. He blackmailed his victims into sending him severe abuse images of themselves and sharing them on the dark web.
He distributed the images, including some which showed babies and children being tortured, on the dark web, and discussed them at length to humiliate and degrade the people who were the subject of the pictures.
He was arrested on June 21 this year and has been held in custody since that date.
The case is the National Crime Agency's first in "hurt core" offending - the hidden web forums dedicated to the discussion of and video sharing of "dark" material.
Matthew Long from the National Crime Agency spoke outside Birmingham Crown court:
Judge Philip Parker QC remanded Falder into custody until December 7, when he will be sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court.
Ruona Iguyovwe, from the Crown Prosecution Service's International Justice and Organised Crime Division, said: "Matthew Falder is a highly manipulative individual who used his knowledge of computers and the internet to persuade dozens of young people to supply him with degrading images he could distribute online and subsequently use in blackmailing them.
"He clearly enjoyed humiliating his victims and the impact of his offending, which carried on over several years, has been significant."
Matt Sutton, a National Crime Agency senior investigating officer, said: "In 30 years of law enforcement I have never come across such horrifying offending where the offender's sole aim was to cause such pain and distress.
"There are more than 50 victims in this case and I commend them for their bravery in helping us convict a truly evil offender.
"It has been an extremely complex investigation into a prolific online predator, who over several years believed he could evade law enforcement to sexually and sadistically exploit vulnerable victims.
A Cambridge University spokesman said: "We can confirm that Falder was a student between 2007 and 2016.
"We continue to offer support to anyone who has concerns about the case. "The university is deeply shocked and saddened by this case.
"Our thoughts are with the victims of these awful crimes and with their families, who have no doubt been deeply affected by this."
A spokesman for the University of Birmingham said: "The University is shocked to hear of the abhorrent crimes committed by a former post-doctoral researcher.
"We have no reason to believe that the offences are in any way connected with the University.”