A scientist and university academic who is one of Britain’s most prolific paedophiles has been jailed for 32 years after blackmailing a string of vulnerable victims, many teenagers, into carrying out depraved sexual and physical acts.
Matthew Falder, 29, a Cambridge graduate, admitted 137 offences against 46 victims, male and female, including blackmail, voyeurism, making indecent images of children and encouraging the rape of a child.
He was arrested following an international inquiry led by the National Crime Agency. At least three traumatised victims attempted to end their own lives after being tricked into sending him humiliating images of themselves.
Falder, a former post-doctoral researcher in geophysics at the University of Birmingham, committed the offences over eight-years and never physically met his victims, instead blackmailing them over the internet. He duped many into sending naked images of themselves by posing as a female artist seeking photos to turn into life drawings.
In reality, he was a member of several “virtual communities” of abusers on the dark web, distributing images on so-called “hurtcore” websites, where images of violent sexual and physical abuse are shared, and where he had a membership level of ”rapist”.
He forced one victim to film herself licking toilet seats, a used tampon and eating dog food; another into eating his faeces and drinking urine. He also encouraged the rape of a young child, the court had heard. He had set up hidden cameras in publicly accessible toilets and at his parents’ home, catching unsuspecting victims on film then blackmailing them and trading images online with others.
Using his ““evilmind” and “666devil” accounts on encrypted dark web forums, he coerced, controlled and ultimately devastated his victims.
Judge Philip Parker QC, sentencing at Birmingham crown court , described him as an “internet highwayman” who was “warped and sadistic” and whose behaviour was “cunning, persistent, manipulative and cruel”.
“No one who knew you above ground had an inkling of what you were doing below the surface”, he said.
Falder, brought up in Cheshire, had excelled at school and emerged from Cambridge University with a master’s degree and PhD before becoming a lecturer at Birmingham University. One former tutor described him as “one of the finest students” whose work had “international impact”. He had dynamic social magnetism, was extremely talented and was the life and soul of the party, the court had heard.
Matt Sutton, senior investigating officer at the National Crime Agency, said after sentencing: “ In more than 30 years of law enforcement I’ve never come across an offender whose sole motivation was to inflict such profound anguish and pain. Matthew Falder revelled in it.”
Falder’s is the first conviction of a “hurtcore” paedophile by British police. Described as the “worst of the worst”, hurtcore is a subculture of paedophilia, which, said the NCA investigator Matthew Long, aims to “hurt the individual to their very core”.
The NCA worked with UK police, GCHQ, US homeland security, the Australian federal police and Europol, and needed up to 100 investigators to find, track and detain Falder, who had evaded detection for almost four years.
Ruona Iguyovwe, of the Crown Prosecution Services, said Falder had shown no sympathy or basic humanity towards his victims. When one victim told him they were thinking of “ending it all”, he told them the images would still be circulated “so what good is that going to be to you”, she said.
One of his victims, duped by Falder after advertising herself as a babysitter on Gumtree, was bombarded with messages from him daily over two months. Speaking anonymously, she said she could not concentrate at school, was scared to go out and had been too ashamed to tell anyone. His actions had led to the total breakdown of relationships with her family and friends, and left her scared of meeting new people.