“IT savvy” Falder led a “double life” as an academic researcher by day and a depraved abuser and blackmailer of children by night, prosecutors said.
He he used his “evilmind” and “666devil” accounts on encrypted dark web forums to coerce, control and ultimately devastate his victims.
He would prey on victims by responding to classified ads, often asking for work as dog-walkers or babysitters, on websites such as Gumtree.
Sentencing “warped and sadistic” Falder for “a tale of ever increasing depravity”, Judge Philip Parker QC said in Birmingham Crown Court: “As for your equally extraordinary sexual offending – no-one who knew you above ground had an inkling of what you were doing below the surface.”
Branding him an “internet highwayman”, he added: “You wanted to assume total control over your victims.
“Your behaviour was cunning, persistent, manipulative and cruel.”
For the victims, he said: “The damage is on-going for these individuals. It will never end, knowing the abuse caused by you still exists in other unknown persons’ computers.”
The judge, who also concluded Falder was a dangerous offender, added: “These sentencing remarks underplay your relentless, obsessive desire to continue committing offences.”
Falder’s account on a now-defunct website, using the name “inthegarden”, revealed he had a preference for victims aged from birth to 18, both male and female, and he used it to ask for tips on how to abuse people.
Falder, a former post-doctoral researcher in geophysics at the University of Birmingham, was caught by an international inquiry led by the National Crime Agency after finally being identified in March last year.
The court heard how he went to great lengths to conceal his identity.
He was arrested at the university after after three traumatised victims, who were tricked into sending him humiliating images, attempted to end their own lives.
A previous hearing was told Falder coerced male and female victims into producing “increasingly severe self-generated indecent images of themselves, the focus of these images being to humiliate and degrade”.
The court heard today that he was brought up by a “loving family” in Cheshire, excelled at school and obtained a Master’s and a PhD.
Falder forced one victim to film herself licking toilet seats, a used tampon and eating dog food, and set up secret cameras in bathrooms to record women and girls naked.
Another was blackmailed into eating his faeces and drinking urine, while the 29-year-old also encouraged the rape of a boy, aged two, by his own father.
He also set up hidden cameras in publicly accessible toilets and at his parents’ home, catching his unsuspecting victims on film, and using the footage to blackmail – and trade with others online.
Opening the facts of the case against Falder, prosecutor Ruona Iguyovwe told the earlier hearing many of the images were then distributed on so-called “hurtcore” websites showing material depicting sexual and physical abuse.
Falder, who treated victims both as sex objects and as objects of derision, posted on one forum “100 things we want to see at least once”.
Upon his arrest, Dr Matthew Falder himself described the catalogue of offences he faced as the “rap sheet from hell”.
The case is thought to be among those with the highest number of charges brought against a single defendant, with Falder admitting 137 offences and a further 51 lying on file under a plea agreement.
These are some of the charges he pleaded guilty to:
Arranging or facilitating the sexual exploitation of a child x one
Blackmail x 12
Causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity x three
Causing or inciting the sexual exploitation of a child x 20
Distribute indecent images of a child, conspiracy to x two :: Distributing indecent images of children x 12
Encouraging or assisting the commission of offences of taking, making or distributing indecent images x six
Fraud by representation x 23
Intentionally encouraging or assisting an offence of rape x three
Intentionally encouraging or assisting of offence of sexual activity with a child family member x one
Making indecent images of children x seven
Participating in the activities of an organised crime group x three
Possession of a paedophile manual x two
Possession of extreme pornography x one
Possession of indecent images of children x one
In remarks in that post, he suggested “a young girl being used as a dartboard”, production of a video depicting a child’s bones being “slowly and deliberately broken”, and the abuse of “a paralysed child”.
It also emerged during the earlier hearing Falder initially duped victims into providing images by posing as a female artist who wanted to turn them into life drawings.
Prosecutors said Falder was also a member of several “virtual communities” of abusers, and in one such forum on the so-called dark web, he had a “membership rank level of ‘Rapist”‘.
The operation to catch Falder, who used specialist software to hide his online accounts, was aided by GCHQ, the United States Homeland Security department and law enforcement bodies in Israel, Slovenia, Australia and New Zealand.
Ms Iguyovwe said Falder was “IT savvy”, avoided telephone contact with his victims and was very careful when he used social media so he wouldn’t leave behind digital footprints that would make him easier to trace.
Falder, of Harborne Park Road, Birmingham, had been warned he could face a life sentence for the offences, committed over an eight-year period.
He had never physically met any of his victims, but instead manipulated them from afar by duping them into providing nude images and personal details.
On his arrest, the former post-doctoral researcher in geophysics at the University of Birmingham told officers “what is it I’ve done”, before correcting himself and adding “supposed to have done”.
He then quipped that the list of suspected offences sounded “like the rap sheet from hell”.
He was found to have two devices with large amounts of indecent images, including a video showing the rape of a newborn baby, and a “paedophile manual” instructing other paedophiles how to carry out child sex abuse and not be detected by police.
Investigators said Falder appeared to come from a “normal” family background and there was nothing that acted as a precursor to his crimes.
He was in a relationship and was living in Birmingham as he embarked on his career as a post-doctoral university researcher.
Ms Iguyovwe said: “I hope we can send a message out to other young people who might be being targeted to be aware of individuals like Mr Falder, who lived a double life.
“During the day he’s a lecturer in geophysics at Birmingham University, while at night online on his computer in the privacy of his iPad or his encrypted email address, he was ‘evilmind’ or ‘666devil’.”
The victim who was blackmailed into eating dog food has told how she was “sucked in” and tormented Falder, who forced her into taking photos of herself performing degrading physical acts or risk very real public humiliation.
Described as the “worst of the worst”, “hurtcore” is a subculture of paedophilia shunned even by other abusers, the NCA says.
Investigator Matthew Long said: “Hurtcore does what it says on the tin really – it’s aim is to hurt the individual to their very core.
“So it’s about the absolute disruption, devastation and ripping apart of the human condition and if you’ve got an end of unpleasantness it’s right at the far end for me.”
Falder’s victims were blackmailed into sending increasingly graphic or degrading images of themselves, including eating dog food or holding signs reading “I am a sex slave”, all so he could earn “kudos” among the other online members of “hurtcore” websites and achieve VIP status, giving him greater levels of access.
But while he hid behind a mask of dark-web anonymity as “evilmind” or “666devil”, his victims were left devastated.
Ruona Iguyovwe, senior prosecutor with the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “He showed himself to be very calculating, he was highly manipulative. He had no shred of sympathy for any victim.
“Three of the victims in this case attempted suicide, at least three that we know of. And in one case that person attempted suicide twice.
“But when speaking to him and victims raised the possibility that they were contemplating taking their own life because of the actions he directed towards them, he showed no ounce of sympathy.
“His reaction would usually be to reinforce his demands.”
Bravely speaking out, she revealed how Falder bombarded her with messages “every day”.
She said she lived in constant fear he would send the images to her friends and family unless she followed his instructions, adding: “I’ll always be scared of meeting new people.
The woman, who is anonymous to protect her identity, is now slowly starting again after Falder effectively destroyed “all relationships” in her old life, with his total abuse of her trust.
She was first approached by Falder on Gumtree after posting an advertisement as a babysitter to earn money, while studying for exams.
He duped her into sending nude images which he claimed would use as “tasteful” illustrations.
But as soon as she sent images, Falder’s manner changed from “nice” to “threatening” as he sprang a trap on the then schoolgirl, which he came to repeat on his other hapless victims – many of them teenagers.
In the space of two months, he had blackmailed the girl over the internet into sending pictures of herself licking toilet seats, a loo brush, and a used tampon.
The girl, who first physically met Falder when he appeared in the dock of Birmingham Crown Court for his crimes, said: “It was messages every day, so it felt like forever.”
She added: “Every day when I woke up, there would be a message. When I came home from school, there would be a message.”
She said: “When I wasn’t actually talking to him, I was worried about when the next message was going to come through.”
At school she could not concentrate and was “scared” to go out or risk meeting her tormentor, more still “ashamed” for what she was being forced to do.
She added: “I didn’t tell anyone. I was ashamed, and obviously you’ve heard what the pictures were like, they were awful and I didn’t want any of my friends to think that I wanted to do that.”
She said: “But I felt like no-one would understand because there was no-one there holding a knife to me saying ‘You will do this’, even though it felt like that.”
The ordeal has “massively” affected Falder’s victim, who stood in court to confront her tormentor and testify to the effect of his vile handiwork.
His actions have led directly to the total breakdown of the relationship with her family and friends.
The first successful conviction of a “hurtcore” paedophile has been described as a “watershed” moment for British police.
But investigators at the National Crime Agency have warned there are others just like Dr Matthew Falder.
Will Kerr, NCA director of vulnerabilities, said police are increasingly concerned about what he described as “horrific” crimes, which are often done for profit and linked to organised gangs.
Up to 100 investigators were needed to find, track and detain Falder, who had managed to evade detection for nearly four years.
Mr Kerr said: “It’s a bit of a watershed moment this investigation for policing for two principal reasons, one it highlights a previously unknown level of very horrific offending – there were over 300 contact reports from Matthew Falder alone.
“Secondly, it also highlights the unprecedented level of resources that law enforcement has to put into these investigations – at one point there were 100 investigators working on this case using the broadest range of new covert capabilities to try and identify and catch him and his other offenders who were engaged in similar activity.
“Falder is not alone – there are many other users of some of these dark web sites and we are very concerned about it.”
The woman said: “I don’t talk to my family anymore, at all. I guess for me I felt like they wouldn’t understand and didn’t understand what had happened to me.”
She added: “All relationships broke down. It’s hard to have a family and a partner and friends when you don’t trust them.
“Eventually they get upset that you don’t trust them and they just leave.”
The woman urged other teenagers using the internet to be careful what they say to the strangers they meet online, adding “it’s a dangerous place to be”.
Looking to the future, she said: “I hope one day I can rationalise the fact that not everyone wants to hurt me.
“It’ll always be there in the back of my mind, that not everyone is trustworthy.”
Speaking after sentence, NCA senior investigating officer Matt Sutton said: “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.
“Falder is not alone so we will continue to develop and deliver our capabilities nationally for the whole law enforcement system to stop offenders like him from wrecking innocent lives.
“I commend the victims for their bravery and I urge anyone who is being abused online to report it. There is help available.”