New tool that can detect faces in distorted images help identify pedophile after 13 year international hunt

A man from Pembrokeshire who sexually attacked and raped young children and then shared graphic photographs of the abuse with other pedophiles on the dark web has been sentenced to life in prison for his crimes.

Investigators from the National Crime Agency were able to identify Martyn Armstrong after reversing the distortion filters that he had placed in the photographs to conceal his appearance. The abuse started in June 2005, which is 17 years ago, and it lasted until February of 2011. Martyn Armstrong is referred to here.

On July 30, 2022, officers from the South Wales Police Department responded to a request from the National Crime Agency and stopped and detained a 50-year-old man who was driving on the M4.

Since the abusive material was first released online in 2010, law enforcement partners from across the globe have been attempting to determine the identity of the individual depicted in it.

In 2013, the Australian Federal Police discovered that the photographs had been published on the dark web site The Love Zone. As a result of this discovery, they sent the images to the National Crime Agency (NCA).

Some of the photographs showed a youngster being raped and sexually abused, but the culprit could not be recognized at the time since the images had been distorted.

In 2017, Italian authorities were able to connect the name “Martyn” to the individual who shot the photographs; however, they were unable to make any more headway in the investigation.

During the same year, a French investigator took up the investigation and began working on locating the beach that appeared in a number of photographs that were associated with the perpetrator.

Following a substantial amount of investigation on the geology of the region, he came to the conclusion that the rocks shown on the shore in the photograph must have been taken in either Ireland or Wales. He examined them next to photographs of more than sixty other beaches until finding an identical match on the coast of Pembrokeshire in Wales.

The investigation into the matter was not concluded until the year 2022, when NCA agents developed a new software that was able to deactivate the picture distortion method for good. This showed the face of the perpetrator, but neither his identity nor that of the victim could be determined from this alone.

The NCA team focused on the name “Martyn,” and they determined that a Martyn Armstrong existed, and that he had connections to the beach, by comparing a picture from Armstrong’s social media profile to the photographs of abuse.

It was revealed that Armstrong resided in Derbyshire during the time of the abuse; however, he had sold his property in January 2022 and relocated to a location that was near to the Welsh beach that was identified by the investigators.

Officers examined some of the original photographs taken in 2009 and compared them to the photographs that were included in the estate agency ad for the property located in Derbyshire.

Investigators from the NCA went to Armstrong’s house after he was arrested and discovered a number of devices there, including one of the two cameras he had been using in 2010. This was linked using forensic techniques to the camera that took the photographs.

It was also possible to retrieve from the laptop the initial indecent photos of children (IIOC) that he had uploaded.

The investigation led to the discovery of further data on Armstrong’s devices that showed him assaulting two young victims who were previously unknown. Each of the three victims was approached and assured of their safety.

Armstrong was charged with 20 counts of rape on a child under 13, one count of assault by penetration, three counts of sexual assault, five counts of causing or inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity, as well as one count of making and one count of distributing 204 category A (the most serious) IIOC. In addition, Armstrong was charged with one count of making and one count of distributing 204 category B (the least serious) IIOC.

On September 21, 2022, he appeared in Cardiff Crown Court and pled guilty to the charges against him.

After that, on November 10th, he entered a guilty plea to additional charges, such as being in possession of 4,105 IIOC (in categories A-C), two counts of assault by penetration, one count of sexual assault, one count of making and one count of distributing IIOC in relation to the second victim, and one count of making and one count of distributing IIOC in relation to the third victim. In total, he was facing seven charges.

In the same courtroom on the 4th of January, he was handed a sentence of life in jail without the possibility of parole.

It has been nearly 17 years since Armstrong first started abusing these young children, according to the Operations Manager of the NCA, Martin Ludlow. I have no reason to doubt that he believed he would never be discovered and that the strategies of deception he used would keep him safe.

“However, the NCA and its foreign allies were certain that he would be held accountable for his nefarious deeds,”

“Our determination to identifying him was relentless, and in the end, officers from the NCA established an entirely new program that led to his unmasking.” An impressive amount of work was put in by the investigators in order to make sense of the scant information available and arrive at the conclusion that Armstrong was the person shown in these photos.

“We will continue to work together and do all we can to bring perpetrators like Armstrong to justice and to safeguard innocent children from being subjected to child sexual abuse,”

The Crown Prosecution Service’s Lucy Dowdall said that the abuse that Armstrong was responsible for inflicting upon his victims was “horrific.”

“In spite of the passage of time and the measures he had taken to conceal his identity, the CPS was able to build a strong case against him, which resulted in guilty pleas.

“The investigation that was carried out by the officers of the NCA was outstanding, and we are grateful to them for their hard work.”

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