National praise for cyber cops who snared Larbert child porn offender

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A major cyber crime operation which detected an online predator who targeted girls as young as 10 is now in the running for a national award.

The joint initiative between Forth Valley area police and the Specialist Crime Division uncovered extensive online child exploitation and led to the conviction of John Kilpatrick in 2016.

The Larbert man first came to the attention of police three years ago after intelligence was gathered about him being in possession of indecent images of children.

In March 2016 a search was executed at Kilpatrick’s home in Larbert and various devices were seized, which were found to contain large numbers of indecent images.

These devices also contained chat logs from social media platforms and detailed conversations with young girls aged under 16, whom Kilpatrick had approached in various guises, usually pretending to be a modelling scout.

He was able to convince victims to send him pictures of themselves in vulnerable poses and then when they ceased sending the images he would use blackmail and intimidation to obtain further images from them.

Officers then began the process of reaching out to the victims, obtaining statements from them and building a case against Kilpatrick which ultimately led to his conviction and sentencing.

The award, hosted by the National Police Chiefs Council, the International Digital Investigations and Intelligence Awards, recognises policing operations, campaigns or investigations, where the use of digital technology played a key role.

Detective Chief Inspector Vicky Watson, of Forth Valley CID, said: “First and foremost, our only priority during this investigation was to get justice for the young girls whom John Kilpatrick targeted and who he exploited for his own sexual gratification.

“The joint working of Local officers from Forth Valley and specialist officers from the National Specialist Crime Division ensured Kilpatrick’s conviction and the safeguarding of young girls.

“I am very humbled, but immensely proud our investigation has been nominated for this award and would like to thank all of those involved in this operation for their outstanding professionalism and dedication throughout.”

Described as an “overweight bearded loner”, Kilpatrick pretended to be a top model agency talent scout – named BeccaJane – to con young girls and women into sending him naked pictures.

Living with his elderly mother, Kilpatrick created a fantasy world from his back bedroom, using a friend finder app to bring up a list of females’ profiles.

Assuming the identity of BeccaJane, he said he worked for London-based BMA Models, asking each victim “have you ever wanted to be a model?”.

He would then ask for increasingly more provocative images before requesting nude photos.

When he received the images he dropped his act and then moved into extortion mode, threatening to spread the pictures via the Internet unless his “contacts” sent him even more nude snaps.

Kilpatrick also posed as the manager of BMA models, the boyfriend and flatmate of BeccaJane, and as a black male, a lesbian female, and a schoolboy, as he wove his intricate online web of deceit.

He pled guilty at Stirling Sheriff Court to 24 offences committed between January 2014 and March 2016, including attempted extortion; distributing indecent images of a child; and encouraging children to participate in sexual activity.

The court heard he amassed a total of 19 female victims from all over Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, including five girls under 13 and eight more aged 13 to 16.

His youngest victim was 10, the oldest 25.

Sheriff Pino Di Emidio jailed Kilpatrick for three years eight months and placed him on the sex offenders’ register for life.