Two British men are in prison after the NCA proved they were part of a secret Europe-wide network whose members travelled the world to sexually abuse children.
Christopher Behn (left), from Essex, and John Thorogood (right), from London, travelled to Asia and Africa respectively over several years to abuse vulnerable young boys.
Both appeared separately in a series of abuse images seized from another member of the network – a Dutch national who was convicted in the Netherlands.
Behn, 68, was sentenced today [3 November] at Chelmsford Crown Court to 11 years in prison and a further six on licence, for sexually assaulting young boys in Vietnam over a 10-year period.
He was previously arrested by the NCA in 2020 and was already serving a nine-year sentence, after pleading guilty to abusing 11 children on a trip to Myanmar in 2016. However, NCA investigators, working with Dutch Police, were able to show there were a further 23 occasions where Behn committed abuse overseas between 2008 and 2018.
Behn’s travel history showed that he had visited Vietnam 18 times since 2006. Both Behn and the Dutch national had written diaries that described in graphic detail the abuse committed by the pair on many of these trips.
The NCA also recovered conversations he had with other offenders via encrypted emails. They discussed children they had met and abused, payments made to victims and their families, and ways in which they could avoid detection by law enforcement.
The sentence handed down to him today will be served alongside the remainder of the nine years he was sentenced to in 2021.
Thorogood, 75, a former registered sex offender with convictions relating to indecent images of children (IIOC), was arrested by the NCA in December 2021.
Investigators identified him from a number of images recovered from the Dutch national, which showed him sexually assaulting boys in Morocco in 2012.
Officers forensically examined his phone and computer and recovered over 200,000 IIOC in categories A-C. Some of the photos were taken by Thorogood and showed boys as young as one.
Thorogood had used the same camera to take a picture of his suitcase, which had a luggage label showing flight details from London to Casablanca, Morocco, in July 2012, leading to his identification.
On 31 August at Wood Green Crown Court, he pleaded guilty to seven counts, including sexual activity with a child, causing a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity, two counts of sexual assault of a child under 13, and three counts of making IIOC.
He was remanded in custody will be sentenced at the same court on 14 November.
The NCA has identified a further four men based in the UK believed to have links to the network and investigations are ongoing in a number of countries across Europe.
Phil Eccles, Operations Manager at the NCA, said:
“The scale, collaboration and commitment of this transnational child sexual abuse network is unprecedented.
“Behn, Thorogood, and their like-minded associates conducted their offending in remote parts of the world, conspiring together via encrypted chats in the hope of hiding from law enforcement. They then catalogued and shared these images between them, further victimising these children.
“It is evident that significant planning went into every trip taken by the group for well over a decade, all of which centred around abusing vulnerable children.
“However, thanks to joint work with our partners across Europe, including Europol and police in The Netherlands, these men are now being exposed.
“Protecting children is a priority for the NCA and international borders are not a barrier. We are dedicated to targeting the highest harm offenders wherever they are in the world, and working with overseas partners to ensure Britons committing abuse abroad will face justice in the UK.”