Print 42 comment(s) - last by Justin Case.. on Oct 23 at 2:09 AM

This man is suspected to be Christopher Neil, who used a swirl filter on his face in images depicting sex acts with children.  (Source: Interpol)

A photo of Neil taken by Thai immigration officials on October 11.  (Source: Interpol)

A photo of Neil submitted to Interpol (left) and one of the unscrambled photos of the suspect (right).  (Source: Interpol)
Interpol finds success in blasting the man’s face across the internet

As it turns out, Interpol’s pleas for help in searching for the “swirly-faced” child molester have met with success: Canadian national Christopher Neil – the man behind the Photoshop filter – was found and arrested in Thailand, on suspicion of sex crimes against young boys.
According to local police reports, Neil had been in Thailand for not more than a week, abruptly leaving his teaching position in South Korea immediately after his picture was broadcast worldwide. He was spotted by airport security cameras in Thailand, sporting a shaved head and glasses. To quote Reuters, the search for Neil was “a manhunt to rival [the] search for JonBenet Ramsey murder suspect Mark Karr.”
Thailand issued a warrant for Neil’s arrest, based on accusations that he paid for oral sex from two Thai teenagers, who were aged 9 and 14 at the time. A trace was executed on Neil’s boyfriend’s cell phone, and he was pinpointed to a remote province called Nakhon Ratchasima, about 150 miles northeast of Bangkok and “well off the normal tourist trail.” The two had been travelling around to different provinces and were “probably on the run,” said tourist police chief Chuchart Suwannakom.
Interpol was originally apprehensive about posting the unscrambled photographs online, partly because it would signal to other crooks that they were capable of descrambling the swirl pattern – and possibly other obfuscation techniques – and partly out of respect for the perpetrator’s family and privacy. However, it was decided that the need to find him outweighed these concerns, and so his image was posted online a little over a week ago. The response was nothing short of torrential: over 200 different responses were received within the first 12 hours of the posting.
It appears that this case is closed, as Interpol has mountains of photographic evidence against the suspect. If convicted, Neil faces up to 20 years in a Thai prison, notwithstanding additional punishment from his home country of Canada, which has laws against child sex crimes committed abroad, if it chooses to seek extradition.

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RE: Not a Tech News
By Master Kenobi on 10/19/2007 2:59:49 PM , Rating: 3
This is a followup to the original article. The "Tech" part of this is that, the federal investigators have showcased that they can "un swirl" these images that people thought were perfect protection. This is some pretty high tech forensics.

RE: Not a Tech News
By DeepBlue1975 on 10/19/2007 11:09:34 PM , Rating: 2
That puzzles me.
Instead of using "impossible to detect" techniques, this psycho guys just settle for "really very hard".

Instead of twirling the face, he could have erased it and overwritten with something else.
Luckily he was stupid enough to settle with "really very hard", though.

RE: Not a Tech News
By howtochooseausername on 10/19/2007 11:29:31 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe at some level these guys want someone to know it was them. Like bragging or something.

RE: Not a Tech News
By Nik00117 on 10/20/2007 4:54:05 AM , Rating: 2
Thats what I think it is, he wants poeple to know that hes done this and he wants poeple to know who he is, to a degree.

RE: Not a Tech News
By Justin Case on 10/23/2007 2:09:06 AM , Rating: 2
Whoever thought a twirl filter was "perfect protection" knows very little about topology and never tried applying two twirl filters (with symmetric values) to the same area in Photoshop.

Just try it. Apply a twirl filter to an image with the maximum value in one direction, then with the maximum value in the other direction. The only tricky bit is finding the dimensions and center of the filtered area (shape isn't important, due to the way the filter works), which have to be pixel-perfect, but that usually won't take someone with experience more than 5 or 6 tries. In other words, it's harldy advanced cryptology.

This guy should get a Darwin Award.

P.S. - From what I've read, he basically visited underage prostitutes in some asian countries (as do thousands of tourists every year - most are just smart enough not to post pictures of themselves), he didn't go around raping children. While being a "client" contributes to the perpetuation of the problem, catching him will make virtually no difference. IMO there's something fundamentally wrong with people who are more concerned about his fate than about the fate of the kids in those countries (where prostitution is frequently seen as the lesser evil). Thinking that something relevant has been achieved will just serve as an excuse to ignore the real problem.

"I f***ing cannot play Halo 2 multiplayer. I cannot do it." -- Bungie Technical Lead Chris Butcher
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