Cambridge graduate was one of worst ever online paedophiles
Depraved scientist gets 32 years for 137 crimes on dark web
A CAMBRIDGE graduate was jailed for 32 years yesterday over his evil double life as one of Britain’s worst online paedophiles.
Privately- educated Matthew Falder was a brilliant geophysicist from an affluent family, with a Master’s degree, a PhD and a promising academic career.
But he was also a ‘warped and sadistic’ voyeur who blackmailed at least 47 victims into sending humiliating pictures of themselves performing depraved acts, before sharing them on abuse forums on the ‘dark web’.
The 29-year-old descended into the world of ‘hurtcore’ – where internet users take pleasure in witnessing the physical and mental torture of others – and left many victims suicidal.
Despite eventually admitting carrying out 137 crimes over ten years, he managed to keep his online activities hidden from his family, long-term girlfriend and friends.
He was snared after Britain’s biggest ever paedophile manhunt – a global effort led by the National Crime Agency (NCA), involving the FBI and spies from GCHQ. Last night, Falder was labelled as ‘absolutely the worst child exploitation and blackmail offender I have ever seen’ by one US Homeland Security investigator. As the paedophile was sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court yesterday:
It emerged that four of Falder’s victims had tried to kill themselves;
The court heard he had targeted more than 200 people online;
Cambridge said it was considering stripping him of his degrees.
Sentencing Falder yesterday, Judge Philip Parker QC said the case was a ‘tale of ever-increasing depravity’ and branded Falder an ‘internet highwayman’ with a ‘lust for wanting to control other people through fear’.
The court heard how, hiding behind usernames such as ‘Evilmind’ and ‘666devil’, he distributed images of babies being tortured and encouraged someone to rape a two-year-old boy.
The judge said he had declined to look at a file of Falder’s ‘repulsive’ child abuse images compiled by the prosecutor, and commended the NCA officers for reviewing the ‘ extremely distressing’ material. Falder also spied on women in the shower with secret cameras and preyed on vulnerable youngsters by posing as an anorexic teenager or a depressed artist to trick them into sending nude selfies.
He then blackmailed them into humiliating acts including licking toilet seats, eating dog food naked and scrawling cryptic references to abuse forums on their naked bodies in red lipstick.
The judge said Falder was clearly an ‘extraordinarily talented’ academic, but added: ‘No one who knew you above ground had any inkling of what you were doing below the surface.’
The geophysics researcher was finally arrested in June last year on the campus of Birmingham University, where he worked.
Footage of his arrest shows him looking wide- eyed before he asked a police officer: ‘What is it I am supposed to have done?’ When they read out a list of crimes, he said it sounded ‘like the rap sheet from hell’.
By the time he was arrested, he had become a ‘VIP member’ of child abuse forums and accrued thousands of sick images which he would ‘trade’ with others who shared his twisted fixation on ‘hurtcore’ porn. The term refers to images showing sexual abuse involving severe punishment, humiliation and pain. His prosecution is believed to be the first successful one relating to ‘hurtcore’ porn in the UK.
Falder shared the images on the dark web, a part of the internet which can be accessed only through special servers which hide a user’s location and identifying IP address. On one darkweb forum he was described as having the ‘membership rank level of “rapist”’.
His decade of offending was described as ‘increasingly serious and menacing’, with the judge adding: ‘Time and again people begged you to stop. Time and again you ramped up the pressure. You wanted to assume total control over these victims. Your behaviour was cunning, persistent, manipulative and cruel.
He said it was ‘astounding’ that a man of his ‘background and intelligence’ did not realise the pain he was causing and stop.
The judge said Falder robbed his victims of ‘their security and their dignity’ and left many feeling ‘shocked, betrayed, unsettled and violated.’
He said the damage for those victims ‘will never end’ as their images were now circulating on the computers of other paedophiles. The judge concluded that Falder was a dangerous offender and gave him a six-year extended licence period.
To lure in victims, the paedophile posed as a female artist called ‘Liz’ on classifieds website Gumtree, where he approached people advertising babysitting or dog- walking services. He offered them as much as £4,000 for nude pictures, claiming it was part of his ‘ therapy’ to sketch people in charcoal.
But once his victims sent him the images, he threatened to pass them on to their parents and school friends unless they posed in ever more depraved and humiliating ways. One 15-year-old sent more than 200 pictures, fearing he would send them to her mother if she did not comply.
Falder also posed as a teenage girl on a forum for sufferers of eating disorders, where he tricked a vulnerable 14-year-old, from eastern Europe, into becoming his ‘girlfriend’.
In an online exchange with another abuser, he said of her: ‘I am thinking of just betraying her as harshly as I can, to see how much I can mentally f*** her up. I think there is even a bit of a chance of a suicide.’
Four of his victims tried to kill themselves, the judge said yesterday, and others self-harmed.
One of those was a 15-year-old girl in foster care, who was told her disabled brother would be taken away from her if she did not keep sending pictures of herself. Falder demanded she pose with a sign that said: ‘I look after my disabled brother, and now I am being forced to strip.’
The judge criticised Falder for ‘responding callously’ after one
‘Manipulative and cruel’ ‘Ever-increasing depravity’
of his victims – whom he was treating like a slave – said he had contemplated suicide.
The scientist went on to boast about being the ‘original blackmailer’ while sharing his sick image collection with thousands of paedophiles on dark-web forums – one of which, called ‘Hurt 2 The Core’, was known as ‘the worst website in the world’.
The court heard he ‘regularly boasted and taunted his victims’ about being anonymous online and undetectable to law enforcement. He used a series of encrypted email addresses and sophisticated ‘TOR’ software, which anonymises internet traffic and allows users to access the hidden dark web. He also used email accounts based in Russia knowing it would be much harder for British authorities to investigate him.
Falder’s sentence follows a four-year worldwide investigation involving security services from the US, Australia, New Zealand, Israel and Europe.
Supervising senior investigations officer Scott Crabb, of Homeland Security in the US, described the paedophile as a ‘monster’ and ‘pure evil’. He added: ‘Falder is absolutely the worst child exploitation and blackmail offender I have ever seen.’
NCA senior investigating officer Matt Sutton added: ‘In more than 30 years of law enforcement I’ve never come across an offender whose sole motivation was to inflict such profound anguish and pain. Matthew Falder revelled in it.
‘I’ve also never known such an extremely complex investigation with an offender who was technologically savvy and able to stay hidden in the darkest recesses of the dark web. This investigation represents a watershed moment.’ Will Kerr, NCA director of vulnerabilities, warned: ‘Falder is not alone – there are many other users of some of these dark-web sites and we are very concerned about it.’
Cambridge University, which said it was ‘appalled’ at the crimes, is ‘actively pursuing’ stripping him of his qualifications, in a ‘very rare’ move for the institution. Birmingham University said it was ‘deeply shocked and distressed’ to hear of the offences.
A Gumtree spokesman said it welcomed Falder’s conviction, adding that it takes the safety of its users ‘extremely seriously’.
Double life: Matthew Falder in his PhD gown with two women not connected to his crimes