A paedophile has been jailed for 18 months after a Sunday Mirror investigation caught him trading vile child sex abuse images with other perverts on Twitter.
Ian Edwards confessed to police that he had been exchanging the sick material for years.
Among more than 1,000 images he’d stored was one showing the rape of a five-year-old.
Detective Constable Dave Murphy, of the Metropolitan Police’s Paedophile Unit, said: “I am grateful to the Sunday Mirror for bringing information about Mr Edwards’ offending to our attention.”
The NSPCC and Internet Watch Foundation praised our investigation, launched after we found paedophiles were using Twitter.
Within two minutes of going online, child protection expert Mark Williams-Thomas – who led our investigation – found 20 users openly expressing interest in child abuse. After two hours we had discovered 200 perverts including 50-year-old Edwards.
Prosecutor Lesley Jones told Southwark Crown Court in London: “The defendant came to be arrested as a result of information provided to police by the Sunday Mirror.
“The defendant was a volunteer at the 2012 Olympics using the user name OlympicOlympic to seek out people interested in children on Twitter.
“A reporter for the newspaper was doing an investigation into the use of social media.
“As a result of seeing the Tweets from the defendant he (the reporter) posed as such a person and contacted the defendant.
“The information was immediately passed to the police, who worked closely with the Sunday Mirror to apprehend the defendant.”
Edwards and wife Gillian were arrested in a dawn raid on their East London flat. Edwards was charged with 11 counts of making indecent images of children, three of possessing them, six of distributing them and one of possessing extreme pornography. A charge against his wife was dropped.
Edwards told our investigator in a Twitter message: “So what u up to today. I’m home alone and horny as hell looking at pics of sweet yng things.”
He added that his preferred age group was 3-12 years and said he had pictures and videos.
Another Twitter user asked: “Who wants to trade pthc pics and vids?”
Pthc stands for “pre-teen hard core”. We handed all the messages and information to the police.
The Sunday Mirror urged Twitter to clean up its act and last September the site said it was introducing ways to identity victims and perpetrators.
Phillip Law, defending Edwards in court, said his client recognised his actions were reprehensible and his arrest was a “relief” because he could get help for his sick fantasies. Judge Andrew Goymer told him: “It is frequently thought by people who commit this type of offence this is an offence where there are no victims, because you are not touching anyone or coming into sexual contact with anyone.
“But it does not take more than a minute’s thought to reflect that these offences always have victims.
“Somewhere in the world, a child is being abused and violated frequently in order to produce these images, made to gratify the depraved perverted desires of people like you.
“It is only by dealing with that market that we can hope to stem this vile trade.
“It is often the case that many of these images are produced in Third World countries where economic circumstances are such that there is pressure for people to be abused.
“It’s quite clear the torment these children must have experienced while these images are being produced. I would be failing in my duty if I did not mark the seriousness of this with an immediate prison sentence.”
Det Con Murphy added: “Persons who offend by viewing or sharing child abuse images often use social media in the mistaken belief that their pseudonym gives them anonymity. Where this offending is happening the police will identify and bring to justice those responsible.
“I am grateful to the Sunday Mirror for bringing information about Mr Edwards’s offending to our attention.”
Victims of abuse or anyone with information can contact his unit in confidence on 020 7161 2811 or anonymously contact Crimestoppers, he added.
Former Surrey police officer Mr Williams-Thomas, who exposed Jimmy Savile as a paedophile, said: “When I approached the Sunday Mirror to investigate paedophiles using Twitter I knew this was a very serious problem.
“As a result of a very delicate investigation a dangerous paedophile is now behind bars.”
Jon Brown, who heads the NSPCC’s programme to tackle sexual abuse, said: “Well done Sunday Mirror for exposing the way Twitter was being used to trade these dreadful images.
“The message has to be drummed home that every time an image is made a child is sexually assaulted so in effect they are crime scenes.
“This is a situation that no decent society should tolerate.”
Killer Stuart Hazell, jailed for the murder of Tia Sharp, 12, in London, and Mark Bridger, who murdered April Jones, five, in Wales, both had images of abuse, he pointed out.
Susie Hargreaves of the Internet Watch Foundation said: “Tackling child sexual abuse content on the internet is crucial and I’m pleased to see the investigation initiated by the Sunday Mirror has reaped results.
“If someone stumbles across online abuse content, they should report it to iwf.org.uk. We will take action.”
A paedophile is facing jail after a Sunday Mirror investigation caught him trading vile child abuse images with other perverts online.
Our undercover team nailed Ian Edwards, 50, while he was using Twitter to find sickening pictures and videos of youngsters.
Acting on our evidence, detectives arrested Edwards and found nearly 1,000 child abuse images and videos on his computer.
On Friday he pleaded guilty to more than 20 child sex charges.
The Sunday Mirror launched our investigation after receiving information that Twitter had become a playground for perverts.
Leading our probe, child protection expert Mark Williams-Thomas befriended Edwards online, allowing us to monitor his depraved postings, which included: “So what u up to today. I’m home alone and horny as hell looking pics of sweet yng things.”
Mr Williams-Thomas, who had told Edwards he was a ballet teacher, asked the pervert what age he preferred. Edwards responded simply: “3-12yrs.”
After Edwards revealed he had“a small amount of pics, some vids” – material suggesting criminal behaviour – he was asked where he got it.
Showing knowledge of paedophile terminology, he said: “As for my stuff, follow NN site.” NN is the abbreviation for non-nude sites, which are paid-for sites widely used by child sex offenders.
Alarmed at the escalation in his sick comments, our team immediately contacted Scotland Yard. Detectives swooped on his East London flat, where they also arrested his wife Gillian. After a five-month investigation, the pair were charged.
They appeared at Southwark crown court where it emerged that Edwards had also been sharing vile snaps with other paedophiles by email. All the images ranged in grading up to 5, the most serious.
Mrs Edwards, 48, was charged with one count of possessing 17 indecent movies of children, but it was dropped when the prosecution offered no evidence.