"It's a bit of a watershed moment ... for policing," says a member of Britain's National Crime Agency. An investigation that started in August 2013 and involved as many as 100 investigators across the UK, the US Department of Homeland Security, Europol, and the Australian Federal Police led to the June 2017 arrest of a postdoctoral researcher in geophysics at the University of Birmingham, deemed "one of Britain's most prolific pedophiles" by the Courier. Now, Matthew Falder has been sentenced to 32 years by a judge who characterized him as "warped and sadistic," per the Guardian, which reports the eight years of torment he enacted online, which began in many cases with Falder pretending to be a female artist seeking nude photos to use in figure-drawing exercises.
Once he obtained them, he blackmailed his victims into doing increasingly perverted acts. He convinced one victim to send him video of herself licking toilet seats and a used tampon; a male victim ate his own feces. Many of his victims were teens, and the images and videos he amassed were posted on "hurtcore" sites—intended to hurt victims to their core—on the dark web under his usernames of "evilmind" and "666devil." The BBC reports as many as four of his distraught victims attempted suicide. All the while, "no one who knew you above ground had an inkling of what you were doing below the surface," says Judge Philip Parker, per the Guardian. Indeed, the 29-year-old Cambridge graduate was described as "one of the finest students" whose work had "international impact."