Philippines link to blackmail death
British police investigating the death of a teenager who took his own life after being blackmailed by strangers online have been involved in a major international operation targeting cyber-crime in the Philippines.
Daniel Perry, 17, from Dunfermline in Fife, died in July last year after falling victim to an alleged "sextortion" attempt, in which internet users are lured into webcam chats and then blackmailed with the footage.
Inquiries by detectives from Police Scotland revealed an electronic online trail, which led to the Philippines and links to organised crime groups there.
Authorities in the Philippines have now revealed that, over the past two days, they swooped on a number of organised crime gangs involved in cyber-crime and have arrested a large number of people as part of an operation codenamed Strikeback.
They arrested more than 50 people in a series of raids, according to reports. Several of the arrests are said to be linked to the Scottish case.
Police Scotland, who played no direct part in the enforcement action, said they worked with a number of international agencies to provide the information they had to the authorities in the Philippines to help with their operation. Those agencies included Interpol, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Philippines National Police.
Inquiries by police in the Philippines in relation to Daniel's death are continuing and Scots police said they will keep working with the authorities in Manila.
Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham, of major crime and public protection, said: "Daniel's death last year led to a major criminal inquiry which ultimately led officers to the Philippines.
"The enforcement action over the past two days by the Philippines National Police has been supported by Police Scotland. We have had officers in Manila observing and assisting in the past few days, working with a wide range of partners including Interpol, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Philippines National Police and Ceop and law enforcement from other countries.
"Our message is clear: Our focus is on keeping people safe and there is no hiding place - anywhere in the world - if you are a criminal and you undertake this type of activity, which preys on those who might be the most vulnerable and susceptible to coercion and blackmail.
"A young Scottish teenager lost his life as a result of this online activity. The impact on his family, friends and wider community cannot be imagined."
Daniel was said to have believed he was talking to an American girl online but was told by blackmailers that the conversations had been recorded and would be shared with friends and family unless he paid up.
In the wake of the latest police operation, his mother, Nicola Perry, said: "The manner of Daniel's death is every parent's worst nightmare. After being targeted by complete strangers online, he was left so traumatised by his ordeal that he chose to take his own life.
"Whoever was at the other end of that computer did not know Daniel. They didn't care that he was a loving and caring person with his whole life ahead of him. To them, he was just another faceless victim to exploit for cash.
"Losing Daniel has left us all devastated and we are still trying to come to terms with what has happened."
Detective Chief Inspector Gary Cunningham, of Police Scotland's specialist crime division, led the investigation into Daniel's death and travelled to Manila to work with the authorities in the Philippines.
He said: "Daniel was a victim of a crime which uses threat and intimidation to coerce people into parting with money.
"This is an organised criminal activity, which is there for one reason - to generate profit by exploiting the vulnerability of others.
"It's an abhorrent crime and in this case a young man lost his life, which is something his family and friends have to live with. We have been thorough and relentless in our pursuit of answers to why Daniel died."
Officers say victims of cybercrime should not suffer in silence and should contact officers immediately if they suspect they are being targeted.
Commonsense steps can be taken to minimise the risk and threat from online criminals, they say.
These include installing good anti-virus software, not using passwords which are easy to guess, and not posting personal information or images you would not want family or friends to see.
Ms Perry added: "If we are to make sure that no other parent or family member loses a loved one in the way that we have lost Daniel, then people must take care when talking to others online and not share intimate pictures or personal information that could be used against them."