Detectives believe a Leicester man found guilty of committing offences against 26 children while posing as a teenage girl online may have abused dozens more.
Henri Michael Pinney, of Wynfield Road, groomed his victims online and induced them to take and send him indecent pictures of themselves for his own sexual gratification.
After a six week trial, Pinney was today (Friday 13 July) found guilty of 40 counts and was sentenced to eight years in prison.
He was also issued with a sexual harm prevention order (SHPO) for life.
But detectives today revealed that they are continuing their investigation into the 22-year-old in the belief he may have committed many more offences against other children.
Pinney first came to the attention of police in June 2016 when a report was made to another police force. The report from a concerned parent said that her son had sent indecent images of himself to who he believed was a girl on Facebook. When enquiries revealed that the Facebook profile was created at Pinney’s home address in Leicester, the investigation was handed to us and Pinney was arrested.
Two phones and three tablets were seized from his house on arrest and were examined by digital forensic specialists.
What followed was to be a two-year investigation by officers from the force’s Digital Hub, which combines the Digital Forensics Unit, the Paedophile Online Investigation Team (POLIT) and the Digital Media Investigators.
It was described by the senior investigating officer as “bigger than some murder enquiries I’ve worked on”.
The initial examination of those five devices uncovered evidence which led to Pinney being charged in September last year, with 19 offences against 12 victims.
But the investigation did not stop there.
As officers dug deeper into Pinney’s social media profiles and examined more devices and social media accounts owned by Pinney, they discovered he had used numerous alias accounts and had been in contact with over 60 children.
Pinney had used a number of different methods to persuade his victims to communicate with him online. Frequently, he would befriend children, mainly teenage boys, and claim that that they could make friends with his female cousin or female friend.
Pinney used “false flag” Facebook accounts which appeared to relate to a number of teenage girls but which, in fact, he controlled himself. He would make friend requests to the children and, after building up trust with them, he would begin to engage in sexualised chat and send them an indecent image of a teenage girl, with whom the children thought they were communicating.
In exchange, he persuaded several of the children to send indecent images of themselves to him and some of them to engage in sexual activity.
On several occasions, he persuaded the children to use Skype to engage in video-messages but he would always make an excuse that his camera and microphone were broken so that he could continue to communicate by typed messages whilst watching the live videos.
As a result of these further enquiries, additional charges were brought against Pinney and at the start of his trial last month, he was facing a total of 43 charges against 27 victims.
At the start of the trial, Pinney pleaded guilty to three counts, all relating to one of the victims. These counts included making 10 indecent images of a child and one count of sexual activity with a child.
However, he continued to deny the remaining 40 counts and the trial continued in relation to 26 of the child victims.
Detective Chief Inspector Shaun Orton, who oversaw the investigation as head of the Digital Hub said: “I have led murder investigations previously in my career but nothing prepared me or my team for the sheer volume of data and material that this case would produce.
“We seized a total of ten devices from Pinney and the data extracted from these devices and from his various social media accounts generated 565,000,000 pages of data, approximately 90,000 of which were from the various Facebook accounts.
“This is a man who spent hours and hours online over time grooming his victims to the point where they would agree to his requests. This resulted in officers and staff spending equal amounts of time painstakingly trawling his messages online and presenting documents about technical data in a form that the court and jury would be able to understand.
“The sheer number of victims who have suffered at the hands of Pinney added to the complexity of our investigation and only served to increase our determination to bring him to justice.
“I am extremely proud of all those who were involved on the case, whatever part they played, for their dedication and commitment in successfully securing this conviction.
“The victims have been extremely courageous and I would like to pay tribute to them for their co-operation and support as we wouldn’t have secured this conviction without them. Some of them gave evidence in court, an experience which I am sure was very daunting and overwhelming.
“People like Pinney often prey on the vulnerability of young people who don’t always have the ability to say no or understand someone’s true intentions. He used his persuasion to talk these victims into engaging in sexual conversations or into sending indecent images of themselves to him for his own sexual gratification. His refusal to acknowledge his crimes forced his victims to relive their trauma by giving evidence in court.
“Despite today’s verdicts, our investigation continues.
“We are continuing to examine devices seized from Pinney and social media accounts he had access to and I am certain that he will have abused other children who we have yet to trace.
“If there is anyone who may have been contacted by Pinney and they believe they may also have been a victim of a similar crime we would ask them to contact us. We have specially trained officers here to help and who will speak sensitively to any victim of this type of crime.
“I hope this case – and the verdicts reached – will serve as a warning to others who are engaging in predatory behaviour online. It may seem easy – even safe – to hide behind a computer or disguise your identity but that doesn’t mean we won’t find out who you are.
“My team used their expertise, knowledge and some of the best technical equipment that exists, to identify Pinney and ensure he is held accountable for his crimes. We will take the same approach with others who would seek to commit such offences.”
Source:: Leicestershire Police News