A convicted paedophile from Essex has pleaded guilty to regularly travelling to South East Asia to sexually abuse children over a ten-year period.
NCA investigators, working with Europol and Dutch authorities, identified that Christopher Behn, 68, was a member of a Europe-wide network who travelled together to abuse children across the globe.
Behn is currently serving nine years in prison for a snapshot of his offending - the abuse of 11 children in Myanmar in 2016.
He was arrested at Gatwick Airport by the NCA in February 2020, after investigators identified him as appearing in images with another member of the network, a Dutch man who was convicted in the Netherlands.
Behn was detained by officers before he could board a flight to Vietnam.
A number of the electronic devices officers seized from him were encrypted, however forensic work by the NCA led to the recovery of photographs taken by Behn of him abusing children in Myanmar.
He was prosecuted for these offences, but it was clear to officers he was involved in offending on a much larger scale, and the investigation continued.
Behn’s travel history showed that he had visited Vietnam 18 times since 2006, along with trips to Thailand, Philippines, Laos, Cambodia, India, and Myanmar.
Both Behn and the Dutch national had written diaries that described in graphic detail the abuse committed by the pair on many of these trips.
In late 2021, Dutch police recovered further abuse images and videos from their suspect’s devices, which were shared with the NCA. Despite the faces of the adults in the photos not being visible, investigators were able to prove many of them featured Behn sexually assaulting young boys.
These images, matched with Behn’s travel history, his diaries, and online conversations between him and other offenders, meant NCA investigators could show there were at least 23 occasions where Behn committed child abuse overseas between 2008-2018.
This was not including the trip to Myanmar in 2016.
Behn regularly spoke with others via TOR chat and encrypted emails about children they had met and abused, payments made to victims and their families, and ways in which they could avoid detection by law enforcement.
In June this year, Behn was further charged with 23 counts of sexually assaulting a child and causing a child to engage in sexual activity. The charges relate to boys aged 6-11 living in Vietnam, spanning 2008–2018.
He pleaded guilty to 21 charges today [8 August] and will be sentenced at Chelmsford Crown Court on 29 September 2023.
The NCA has identified a further five men based in the UK believed to have links to the network and investigations are ongoing in a number of countries across Europe.
Phil Eccles, Operations Manager at the NCA, said: “Behn is a committed and prolific transnational child sex offender, who dedicated years of his life to this criminal network.
“It’s clear that a significant amount of planning went into every trip taken by the group, all of which centred around abusing children.
“Behn and his like-minded friends conducted their offending in remote parts of the world and conspired together via encrypted chats in the hope of hiding their horrific offending from law enforcement.
“However, thanks to joint work with our partners across Europe, including Europol and the Dutch police, these men are now being exposed.
“Protecting children is a priority for the NCA. We are dedicated to targeting the highest harm offenders and working with overseas partners to ensure British nationals committing abuse abroad will face justice in the UK.”
08 August 2023