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19 February 2018, 12:52 | Updated: 19 February 2018, 14:07
One of Britain's most prolific paedophiles from Birmingham, who blackmailed a string of vulnerable victims including a girl who was ordered to eat dog food, has been jailed for 32 years.
University of Birmingham academic, Dr Matthew Falder has admitted 137 offences, including blackmail, voyeurism and encouraging the rape of a child, relating to 46 complainants after being caught by an international inquiry led by the National Crime Agency.
The 29-year-old of Harborne Park Road, Edgbaston, was arrested in June last year after three traumatised victims, who were tricked into sending him humiliating images, attempted to end their own lives.
Our Reporter Charlotte Winfield was in court:
VIDEO: The judge described Dr Matthew Falder from #Birmingham as "cunning, manipulative & cruel." He's been sentenced to 32 years in prison.— West Mids News (@HeartWMidsNews) February 19, 2018
Our reporter @JournoCharlotte was in court:#HeartNews https://t.co/DDOhYWEPD5
Sentencing "warped and sadistic" Falder for "a tale of ever increasing depravity", Judge Philip Parker QC said: "As for your equally extraordinary sexual offending - no-one who knew you above ground had an inkling of what you were doing below the surface."
Branding him an "internet highwayman", he added: "You wanted to assume total control over your victims.
"Your behaviour was cunning, persistant, manipulative and cruel."
For the victims, he said: "The damage is on-going for these individuals it will never end, knowing the abuse caused by you still exists in other unknown persons' computers."
The judge, who also concluded Falder was a dangerous offender, added: "These sentencing remarks underplay your relentless, obsessive desire to continue committing offences."
A previous hearing was told Falder coerced male and female victims into producing "increasingly severe self-generated indecent images of themselves, the focus of these images being to humiliate and degrade".
He also set up hidden cameras in publicly accessible toilets and at his parents' home, catching his unsuspecting victims on film, and using the footage to blackmail - and trade with others online.
Opening the facts of the case against Falder, prosecutor Ruona Iguyovwe previously told the court that many of the images were then distributed on so-called "hurtcore" websites on the dark web, showing material depicting sexual and physical abuse.
Falder, who treated victims both as sex objects and as objects of derision, posted on one forum "100 things we want to see at least once".
It also emerged during the earlier hearing that Falder initially duped victims into providing images by posing as a female artist who wanted to turn them into life drawings.
Prosecutors said Falder was also a member of several "virtual communities" of abusers, and in one such forum on the so-called dark web, he had a "membership rank level of 'Rapist'".
One of his victims, speaking anonymously after his sentencing, described how his abuse had led to the breakdown of "all relationships" in her life, and how she was now "scared to meet people".
The operation to catch Falder, who used specialist software to hide his online accounts, was aided by GCHQ, the United States Homeland Security Department and law enforcement bodies in Israel, Slovenia, Australia and New Zealand.
Matthew Long from the National Crime Agency told us it's one of the worst cases he's ever had to work on:
Victims of dark web paedophile Matthew Falder attended court today to see him sentenced to 32 years in prison— West Mids News (@HeartWMidsNews) February 19, 2018
Matthew Long, from the National crime Agency, commended their bravery#HeartNews pic.twitter.com/vmXzOz5YLh
Falder, committed the offences over an eight-year period and never physically met any of his victims, but instead manipulated them from afar by duping them into providing nude images and personal details.
On his arrest, the former post-doctoral researcher in geophysics at the University of Birmingham told officers "what is it I've done", before correcting himself and adding "supposed to have done".
He then quipped that the list of suspected offences sounded "like the rap sheet from hell".