February 2018

How police shut down a paedophile’s massive online operation

Neil Antony Derrick Payne, 43, who was described as a “devious, persistent and prolific sex offender” by the judge who locked him up for 10 years, was caught as part of a nationwide investigation into 120 potential victims of online grooming, led by Dyfed-Powys Police.

He pretended to be a teenage boy when he contacted “hundreds” of young girls from across the UK.

After contacting girls online Payne, of Pentre Morgan near Bronwydd, Carmarthen, tried to get them to meet his fictitious uncle in person in an attempt to encourage them to engage in sexual activity.

He was arrested after a teenage girl reported making contact with a man who had been purporting to be a 17-year-old boy on Facebook.

Those who worked to bring Payne to justice explained how they conducted an intense digital investigation into social media profiles set up by Payne.

Computers were seized from his home and were examined by the force’s digital communications and cyber crime unit (DCCU).

A forensic examination of devices seized from Payne revealed that he had set up 11 different profiles over Facebook, WhatsApp, Skype, Oovoo, Snapchat and Kik.

His fake profiles featured photographs of young males aged 15-17 years.

The force said Payne would trawl the internet for contacts and target teenage girls. Using these fake accounts, he had been sending friend requests to girls across the UK for around 18 months.

On Facebook alone, 172 people accepted his friend request.

Images, videos and text conversations were extracted, as well as information from social media profiles which were used to identify how many of the girls behind the 500 usernames were potential victims.

A DCCU analyst formatted 15,000 lines of text over each social media network into individual conversations between Payne and the girls he befriended.

She quickly established a pattern, with his most frequent conversation opener used 119 times. He would say they had friends in common, or that he had recently moved to the area and wanted to meet people.

Detective Sergeant Mathew Davies, of the Police Online Investigation Team, said: “His intent was to send a mass message out to young girls using these regular lines.

“He was in contact with hundreds of people over his various accounts – starting off requesting random people as friends, and then working through their friend list to add others.

“Our analyst pulled out conversations with each girl, so even if he moved people to different platforms to chat we could still track what had been said between them.

“He had a pattern of conversation, and would try to move the girls onto Snapchat or Skype, saying his uncle was lonely and needed friends.

“He was then pretending to be this boy’s uncle on these accounts.”

Following his arrest in October last year Payne was charged with a total of eight offences – meeting a girl aged under 16 following grooming, five counts of causing or inciting a girl aged 13 to 15 to engage in sexual activity, and two counts of possessing indecent photographs or pseudo photographs of a child.

In December 2017 Payne pleaded guilty to all eight offences at Swansea Crown Court. On Wednesday, January 31, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with a further five years on license.