Interpol in appeal to find prolific child abuser

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Interpol has launched its first ever appeal for help from the public to boost an international hunt for a prolific paedophile pictured on the internet abusing boys as young as six.

The man, code-named Vico, appears in more than 200 pictures abusing the boys in Vietnam and Cambodia. Interpol has put a search out through its 186 units world-wide but has so far failed to identify the man. Now it has published decoded images of him which were deliberately obscured.

The pictures – which show a white man with brown hair thought to be in his thirties – were unscrambled by German police specialists and the Trafficking in Human Beings Unit at Interpol. Michael Moran, an officer at Interpol on secondment from the Irish police, said: "The swirling effect used in the images can be found in any high-end photographic editing software. If the image was twisted clockwise, the German team twisted it counter-clockwise. If you can identify the middle of the picture, then you can use the same filter yourself to do the same thing."

Interpol last night had the unscrambled image leading its website, with the words: "Wanted: search for this man photographed sexually abusing children."

"The decision to make public this man's picture was not one which was taken lightly, but after thoughtful consideration and with the full agreement of experts from Interpol's member countries dedicated to fighting this appalling criminal activity," said Kristin Kvigne, assistant director of Interpol'sTrafficking in Human Beings Unit.

Another Interpol official said the images might have been posted on the web in order to prove to like-minded abusers that he was indeed an adult, and therefore a genuine offender.

"For years images of this man sexually abusing children have been circulating. We have tried all other means to identify and to bring him to justice but we are now convinced that without the public's help this sexual predator could continue to rape and sexually abuse young children," General Ronald Noble, the Interpol Secretary, said.

In 2004 German police found pictures of him online, and traced elements of them to venues in Vietnam and Cambodia.

"We are certainly not encouraging members of the public to take any direct action themselves, particularly since any positive identification would need to be confirmed by law enforcement authorities but if anyone recognizes this person, or has any information ... please contact the police or Interpol National Central Bureau in your country," she added.

Interpol said in a statement that despite extensive efforts the man's identiy and nationality were unknown.