Paedophile who used ‘dark web’ to source 33k child abuse images is jailed
A paedophile who used the dark web to view child abuse images as part of a sick “daily ritual” has been jailed.
Ian Wheaton, of Manilla Road, Southend, downloaded more than 33,000 still and moving images over three years – using special internet browsers to hide his activity.
Basildon Crown Court heard 944 images were in the most serious category A, and involved some children who were less than one-year-old.
In some of the images, young children were degraded while bound and hooded.
Further details revealed during yesterday’s hearing were too graphic to print.
The court heard 58-year-old Wheaton told police he “didn’t know” why he developed an interest in child abuse after viewing porn during the break up of his marriage.
He told them: “It wasn’t for the illicit stuff. It was for the normal stuff. What started off as curiosity became an addiction.”
While he has no previous convictions, probation officers ruled he was at risk of crossing a “threshold” into “hands-on” abuse.
Wheaton was arrested at his home on Tuesday, January 5.
Richard Burrington, prosecuting, told the court: “When police told him what he was being arrested for his reply was: ‘Oh dear’.”
The former taxi driver admitted downloading the sickening images, as well as 1,011 category B images and 31,937 category C images.
Wheaton used a special ‘onion’ browser to find sites on parts of the internet that are not accessed by normal search engines.
He also posed as a 12-year-old boy on chat rooms.
Addressing him, Judge David Owen-Jones said: “From your own admission you had been looking at images for a period of two years, doing so every couple of days. It had become, in your own words, a daily ritual.
“Children who are abused in this way suffer substantially. They are vulnerable children and regularly suffer intimidation and threats by those who are harming them.
“I hope that the sentence will deter others accessing these images.”
Wheaton was jailed for 12 months and ordered to sign the sex offenders register for ten years.