Abuser's horrific child sex images 'worst ever seen'
As one of Ulster's worst-ever cyber perverts awaits sentence, Crime Correspondent Deborah McAleese traces his sinister past
In March 2002, shortly before his 54th birthday, Downpatrick man Ian Magill boarded a flight to Thailand alongside honeymooners, excited backpackers and sun-seekers.
A frequent traveller to eastern Asia, where some of his family members reside, Magill probably did all he could to blend in with the crowds of holidaymakers.
But unknown to his fellow travellers he was a convicted child pornographer on his way to prey on young pre-pubescent children and take perverted photographs of them for sexual gratification.
When he arrived in the country, while other holidaymakers visited beaches and tourist hotspots, Magill trawled the backstreets of Bangkok in search of his prey.
It was along one of these poverty stricken streets, where child prostitution is the only means of survival for many, that Magill handed over 10,000 Thai baht - £155 - to a mother so he could take repulsive child abuse images of her four children.
The image on his camera was dated March 14 - his birthday. This was Magill's birthday present to himself.
While it is known that Magill (59), from Ballyhornan Road in Downpatrick, travelled to eastern Asia on many occasions the number of times he visited there to take photographs of child abuse has never been established. However, he has a long history of child pornography stretching across a period of 17 years.
In 1991 Magill walked free from a court in England after receiving a one-year suspended jail sentence and fined £800 for taking indecent photographs of four young girls aged between seven and 10. Despite his conviction he was allowed to keep his job as a £27,000-a-year display designer at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in Cultra.
Four years later he was caught smuggling child pornography into the UK from Amsterdam after he was stopped by customs officers at Heathrow airport.
Once again he walked free from court after a Belfast Crown Court judge fined him £3,500 and suspended a two-year jail sentence. He was also placed on the sex offenders' register for 10 years.
While initially permitted to keep his job, Magill eventually was told to go after a broadcast of the BBC's Child Antiques Roadshow threatened to pull out of Cultra.
At that time Magill spoke to the Press claiming he was desperately sorry for what he had done and saying he needed help.
"I realise that I have to be punished for what I have done. I have lived with these inclinations for the whole of my life," he said.
"I regret what I have done and the hurt I have caused people."
However, there was little sign of remorse when he was caught last year with 15,229 indecent images of children - over 700 of which were categorised as category 5, the worst level.
"For my team of investigators and the guys who forensically examined Mr Magill's computer, they are without doubt, the most horrific images anyone involved in this field ever had the displeasure to look at," the Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Sergeant Peter Montgomery told the Belfast Telegraph.
"They will certainly have a lasting legacy on anyone who had to view those images and movies of children being brutalised by adults.
"From my experience they are the most horrific we have ever seen. He is without doubt the worst case we have ever had to come across."
The net closed in on Magill after the UK's leading child abuse experts - Child Exploitation and OnLine Protection Centre (CEOP) - contacted the PSNI's Child Abuse and Rape Enquiry Unit to say that Magill had downloaded and distributed indecent images of children in August 2005. Those images included an indecent movie of a young child aged around four.
PSNI officers gained a warrant in July last year to search Magill's home and he was arrested on suspicion of possession and making indecent images of children.
During initial interviews he denied the offences and was adamant there was no case to answer. He was also confident that nothing would be found on his computer. He was eventually released on bail while the police and forensic experts attempted to gain evidence against him.
Despite having tried to use high-tech software to wipe all traces of illegal activity from his computer intense forensic examinations of his computers, cameras, and computer discs were carried out and police were left stunned when they discovered 15,229 images of child abuse.
Magill was reinterviewed but he continued to deny the offences. However, when detectives revealed they had discovered the photographs he had taken in Thailand he finally crumbled and admitted his guilt.
He also admitted going into online chatrooms where he posted and shared images of child abuse with other paedophiles.
Today, Magill was due to be sentenced at Downpatrick Crown Court on 50 counts of possessing horrific images of child abuse.
On his release from jail he will be placed under stringent monitoring conditions in a bid to protect the public, especially young children.
"Mr Magill will never, ever work with children again," said Detective Sergeant Montgomery.
"His offences have become worse over the years, but the advent of the internet has assisted paedophiles with that.
"Previously it was very difficult for a person with an interest in these images, it was difficult to get them but now with the internet and file sharing networks, like-minded people can easily share images. In my opinion he has progressively got worse.
"We can't stress enough that people have to realise if they're committing these offences this organisation is determined to find them, trace them, arrest them and put them before the courts. No matter what they try to do to cover their tracks, we will use every tool to try and uncover their actions.
"This case clearly demonstrates someone who tried to cover their tracks, but we were able to uncover one of the most horrendous cases we have ever had to deal with."