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New NCA technology helps jail prolific child rapist

New technology that has been developed by NCA officers enabled the identification of a rapist known across the world since 2013.

A child rapist who has shared images and videos of himself committing his crimes has been jailed for life.

It comes after he was identified using an NCA-developed tool which was able to unpixelate an image of his face found in photos he had taken of himself abusing his victims.

Martyn Armstrong, from Pembrokeshire, had documented himself committing “depraved” acts against three children – including a victim as young as one.

He then posted the pictures online – a series of 200 extremely graphic images and a video under the file name ‘Father Jones’ which shows him repeatedly raping his youngest victim, 

The series has been known to crime agencies since 2013 and the file has been shared and downloaded across 18 countries, not including the UK, within South America, Australia and Europe.

It was still being shared in the UK in early 2022 across six websites – it had been found by forces in 583 forensic submissions.

Roger Griffiths, prosecuting, said that Armstrong had used photoshop to place a ‘zig zag’ distortion across his image, although he made no attempt to disguise his victims.

The manipulation of the image has meant that investigators were unable to identify the paedophile for almost a decade - although a French officer was able to identify the exact beach location in Wales which featured in some of the images.

In July 2022, NCA officers were able to use their new tool to unpixelate the image. The software is the first of its kind to be developed in the world.

With the unpixelated image, officers were able to identify Armstrong’s Facebook profile.

Upon his arrest, officers seized a number of his devices and discovered a disturbing cache of images including 789 category A, 989 category B and 2227 category C.

Mr Griffiths said: “Mr Armstrong was tracked down and asked if he was guilty of the offences and he answered ‘to some of them yes’."

Armstrong admitted to distributing photos and to naming the Father Jones series, saying he had also taken images of one of his victims on a beach, telling officers: “I always have a camera with me.”

Armstrong’s defence lawyer said that Armstrong did not want him to try to mitigate the depravity of his actions and said he had taken full responsibility for them.

However, he asked the judge to take into account how he has co-operated with officers and led them to identify other victims.

He pleaded guilty to a total of 41 counts of rape of a child under the age of 13 and sexual assault related to two victims, and to making, distributing and possessing indecent images of children in relation to them both and a third victim.

Roger Griffiths, prosecuting, told Cardiff Crown Court that Armstrong had taken the images of him abusing children between 2005 and 2007, and between December 16, 2009, and February 6, 2011, and had admitted to taking photos of a third child on a beach in 2010.

Sentencing Armstrong to a life imprisonment with a minimum term of 14 years, Recorder of Cardiff Tracey Lloyd-Clarke said: “In these courts we deal with the most serious sexual offences but the nature and depravity of your offending is shocking.

“No doubt you thought the precautions you took to hide your identity would protect you from being identified.

“Thanks to the good work of officers from the National Crime Agency and other law enforcement agencies across the world you were apprehended.

“You distributed images of children for the sexual gratification of other paedophiles,” she added.

“That will continue for the rest of their lives because these photographs cannot be recalled.”

Armstrong was also made the subject of a 25-year sexual harm prevention order, along with restraining order in relation to the three victims.

Martin Ludlow from the NCA said: “It is over 17 years since Armstrong began to abuse these young children. I don’t believe he thought he would ever be caught and that the distortion techniques he used would protect him.

“However, the NCA and our international partners were determined to ensure his evil actions did not go unpunished.

“Our commitment to identifying him was unwavering and ultimately, NCA officers developed a completely new programme which led to his unmasking.

“We will continue to work together and do all we can to bring offenders like Armstrong to justice and protect innocent children from child sexual abuse.”

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