During the Fall of 2017, the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) released photograph pulled from a video found on a darknet child abuse forum and asked for the public’s help in identifying the victim (and the abuser). Within hours, the child’s mother saw the pictures and travelled to a police station with her daughter. The police quickly identified the abuser as the woman’s 24-year-old partner and brought him into custody shortly afterwards. Now, according police in Lower Saxony, a second suspect has emerged.
Due to the highly unusual nature of the tactics used in the case, the BKA held a press conference where a spokesperson told the public that all other attempts at identifying the crime scene and victim had failed. Videos victim, a 4-year-old girl, first surfaced on the darknet in 2016, police said. The abuser then uploaded pictures and videos of various episodes of sexual abuse until July 2017. In these cases, a senior prosecutor for the Central Office for Cybercrime (ZIT) explained, the investigators can usually narrow down a list of suspects based on pieces of information accidentally revealed by the abuser.
Taskforce Argos, when taking down the child abuse forum “The Love Zone,” spent months reading forum posts and analyzing photos to catch a handful of high-ranking member or staff of the forum. For example, in the investigation against one of the forum mods, Argos found that the suspect likely lived in Australia and had a passion for a particular type of vehicle. He mentioned that he had recently bought a vehicle part. Argos looked for local sales of the vehicle part within a certain timeframe and found several matches. Only one of the buyers had used a writing style that matched the unique style of the forum moderator.
The BKA explained that their process often unfolded in a fashion similar to the one above. With the exception of the case of the sexually abused 4-year-old. They only released the photograph after foreign investigators failed to find any identifying information in the photo. After a foreign investigative branch of law enforcement in an unknown country notified the BKA that the girl likely lived in Germany, the BKA turned to their last resort measure: blasting the picture across the internet.
In December, the police in Delmenhorst that another suspect had been identified by the authorities. The authorities may have identified the suspect, but the defense attorney for the primary suspect told the authorities that a second man had played a role in the child exploitation. Lower Saxony authorities have not said whether or not the man physically abused the girl himself. The BKA noted that the abuser and person uploading the pictures and videos to the darknet forum—for pay—may not have been the same person. According to the defense attorney for the first suspect, the second man, 39, lived in Bremen.
The authorities found and arrested the man, but chose not to confirm or deny the current custody status. They opted out of announcing charges at the time of this publication.