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Mechanic jailed for secret life moderating a dark web child abuse site called ‘The Annex’

‘The Annex’ had 90,000 global users who shared sickening images - including the abuse of babies and toddlers

Amy-Clare Martin
Crime Correspondent
Wednesday 14 February 2024 19:10 GMT
Nathan Bake (National Crime Agency/PA)
Nathan Bake (National Crime Agency/PA) (PA Media)

A “solitary” car mechanic who had a secret life running horrific child abuse sites on the dark web has been jailed for 16 years.

Nathan Bake, 28, was one of three UK-based moderators of a site called ‘The Annex’ with 90,000 global members, where users shared sickening images - including the abuse of babies and toddlers.

As the head moderator, Bake was second in command of the site which was run by an American man who was sentenced to life in prison in the US in January.

Bake, from Cheshire, was jailed for 16 years at Chester Crown Court on Wednesday after pleading guilty to 12 offences related to moderating and creating sites on the dark web used for sharing material showing child abuse.

Judge Patrick Thompson said: “In this day and age, given the wide public access to news material, there is very little that shocks the public, but this is such a case.

“People are revulsed by offending of this nature and those who take sexual gratification from the abuse of children in any form.”

Anna Pope, prosecuting, told the court Bake was responsible for managing around 30 staff members who worked to enforce The Annex’s rules in a “sophisticated and well-structured” operation.

Users would first go to a “gateway”, accessed through the Tor browser, and would have to “gain the trust” of those managing the site before being promoted to other areas, with names such as “Tots ‘R’ Us” and “No Limits”.

Detectives in the case said this usually involved sharing a certain number of child abuse images to “prove themselves” to moderators.

Under the username Pink, Bake answered queries from other site users and offered advice on not getting caught.

In one post, he said: “Come on people, show us what you’ve got for HAPPY HOUR. Show us the boys and girls that turn you on the most.”

Mark Edmondson, the National Crime Agency’s lead officer in the case, said: “He seems to be a fairly solitary individual. He worked during the day and then spent his evenings, pretty much all of them... as soon as he got in from work he would be logging on to these sites, and then (be) on these sites early into the morning hours.”

The site’s other moderators also included Kabir Garg, a psychiatrist from Lewisham, south-east London, who was jailed for six years last year.

Kabir Garg was also jailed for six years last year for being a site moderator for The Annex (PA)

The site was identified by American law enforcement officers on a server in Romania in 2020 before being moved to a server in Moldova and saw extreme material shared involving abuse of babies and toddlers and “hurtcore”, which involves violence.

NCA branch commander Adam Priestley said: “There was nothing on this site that was off limits. Everything was encouraged.

“The men that we’re talking about here were very much part of a team - a staff that you would expect to see within any business - that provide a platform and facilitate a community of paedophiles to encourage the abuse of children all over the world.”

He also revealed that the NCA is in discussions with the Home Office about updating legislation to deal with the moderation or administration of websites where child abuse material is being shared.

Bake is the first NCA case in which a defendent was charged with participating in an organised crime group in a case of this type.

He said: “It would be much simpler if there were new legislation that dealt with these offences explicitly.”

The court heard that more than 3.6 million indecent images were recovered from devices at Bake‘s home following his arrest in November 2022, and children’s tights, underwear and sandals were found in the bottom drawer of his computer desk.

He had also been involved in moderating another site and was co-creator of a third, named Lolita’s Paradise, Ms Pope said.

Keith Jones, defending, said Bake, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of 16, had converted to Islam, was studying Arabic and “finding some peace in the scriptures”.

He said: “He acknowledges that his behaviour is morally reprehensible.”

Judge Thompson said he considered Bake to be a dangerous offender and ordered an extended licence period of four years.

He told him: “You are a committed paedophile who represents a very significant risk of causing serious harm to children.”

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