PARIS — Interpol sought public help Monday in identifying a suspected pedophile, revealing a technique to unscramble digitally altered images to show the face of a man seen in Internet photos sexually abusing young boys in Vietnam and Cambodia.
Specialists succeeded in producing identifiable images of the man from the original pictures, where his face was a digitally blurred whirl, the international police organization said.
Anders Persson, a Swedish police officer who oversees Interpol’s database of images of child abuse, said releasing the photos sent “a quite clear message” to criminals that they can be identified through Web postings.
He declined to detail how specialists unblurred the photos.
“Techniques are always developing. What is impossible today is possible tomorrow,” he said. “There were several attempts to clear the face ... We are sure that you can’t get better pictures and the people in his neighborhood — family friends, colleagues, whatever — they will recognize him.”
Interpol said 12 different young boys appeared in about 200 original photographs. One picture showed the name of a hotel in Vietnam, but police checks of the guest register turned up no clues, Persson said in a telephone interview. Cambodian police recognized locations in other photos.
Interpol, which is headquartered in Lyon in southeast France, posted four reconstructed photos of the man on its Web site, along with an original image where his face was blurred.
Photos from before December 2004
Persson said he personally had opposed making the photos public because it demonstrated to criminals that police can now unblur pictures. But that consideration and the risk that the man could face public humiliation or even violence now that he is recognizable were outweighed by the desire to protect other children from abuse.
“It was a long discussion,” Persson said. “We can’t just sit here and do nothing. We have exhausted all possibilities within police work to find this man ... This was the last step.”
The photos by German specialists showed a white man who looked in his thirties, with uncombed short brown hair. One photo showed him wearing glasses; in another he was smiling.
The photos must date from before December 2004, when they were found on the Internet, and some were digitally stamped as having been taken in 2002 and 2003, said Persson.
“For years, images of this man sexually abusing children have been circulating on the Internet. We have tried all other means to identify and to bring him to justice, but we are now convinced that without the public’s help this sexual predator could continue to rape and sexually abuse young children whose ages appear to range from six to early teens,” Interpol’s secretary general, Ronald K. Noble, said in a statement.
“We have very good reason to believe that he travels the world in order to sexually abuse and exploit vulnerable children,” Noble added.
Boys have not been located
The 12 boys have not been located, he added. Interpol had already circulated photos of the man to police around the world but failed to identify him.
The man has distinguishing marks on his body that would be enable police to be sure that he is the man in the photographs if he is eventually identified, Persson said. He did not say what these marks were but said they would be “the final proof if he is the right guy or not.”
Interpol asked people who recognize the man or who have other information to contact police or the Interpol bureau in their country. It urged them not to take any direct action themselves.
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