Christopher Paul Neil
|Christopher Paul Neil|
The swirled image of Neil which led to his nickname, and the manipulated version of it from the Interpol campaign
February 6, 1975 |
New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada
|Known for||Sexually abusing children|
Christopher Paul Neil (born February 6, 1975), also known as Mr. Swirl, Swirl Face, or Vico (nicknamed after the Interpol operation concerning him), is a convicted child molester. He was the subject of a well-publicized Interpol investigation of the sexual abuse of at least 12 young boys in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, primarily owing to the worldwide broadcast of pornographic images depicting the abuse. He was arrested by Thai police in October 2007.
Neil was born in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada, and raised and educated in Maple Ridge, British Columbia. There he taught and studied to become a Catholic priest.  The Seminary of Christ the King in Mission, British Columbia did not permit Neil to become a priest, and he chose to go into teaching instead.
Interpol search and capture
Neil appeared in over 200 photographs depicting the abuse, which surfaced on the Internet and led to a worldwide manhunt known as Operation Vico. Neil's face was obscured by a digital swirl in the photographs, but German computer experts at the Federal Criminal Police Office were able to reconstruct the original picture, using techniques which they have not revealed but are believed to have been as simple as running the transformation in reverse (see Reverse swirl transformation below).
Several of these reconstructed pictures were posted on Interpol's website and led to over 350 people contacting the organization, five of whom identified the man as Neil. Neil was working as an English teacher in the city of Gwangju, South Korea, at the time but fled (with a one-way ticket) to Thailand once he was publicly identified. He was arrested in the Nakhon Ratchasima Province, in the Isan region of northeast Thailand, on October 19, 2007. Thai police reportedly located the fugitive by means of a trace on the mobile phone of his 25-year-old gay Thai partner, who was himself identified by transvestites in the beach town of Pattaya. While Neil was teaching in Thailand, he allegedly employed the services of a Thai to bring young boys from internet cafes to his apartment to perform sexual services. As Neil arrived at the Royal Thai National Police Headquarters he was met by around 300 journalists, which resulted in a stampede.
On January 11, 2008, the start of his trial was set for March 10. He pleaded not guilty. On March 10 it was found that Neil did not have a lawyer. One was assigned to him and the trial was adjourned to June 2. He was sentenced on August 15, 2008 to 39 months in prison and $1,780 fine. His original sentence of 6 years was reduced by about half because he admitted to the crime. On November 24, 2008, his sentence was extended by six years following his conviction for molesting a second child.
Extended search for others
Thai police expanded the hunt for potential child sex offenders by publishing photographs of 50 Western suspects identified by international authorities, many of whom are German citizens. Other nationalities include British, Australian, Italian, Finnish and American. On May 6, 2008, Interpol launched Operation IDent, its second public appeal to identify an unknown child abuse suspect, who featured in almost 100 images showing the sexual abuse of at least three boys between six and ten years old. After authorities received more than 250 leads, Wayne Nelson Corliss was arrested by ICE agents in New Jersey and charged with producing child pornography, admitted sex with three boys, and was denied bail. In November 2009, he was sentenced to 19 1/2 years in prison.
Reverse swirl transformation
||This section of a biography of a living person does not include any references or sources. (February 2014)|
In principle, the "swirl" operation allegedly used by Neil to disguise his face in photographs is lossless: that is, information about the original image is not lost and can be perfectly restored from the altered version. In practice however both resolution and colour depth limitations in a digital image make the operation slightly lossy. Nonetheless applying a second swirl operation with opposite rotational direction and the same intensity as the first will recover most of the original image.
Although exact steps may vary, this disguise and restoration can be made by following these steps:
- Apply the twirl filter with x degrees settings to the picture. This should distort the picture.
- To un-distort, apply the twirl filter with -x degrees setting. Alternatively, one can flip the picture and apply the first twirl filter (with x degrees) again.
When starting with a "pre-swirled" image, the reversal may not be as easily done as the example shown to the right, as the settings of the initial swirl are not known. The correct position, area of effect and intensity (angle) of the swirl must be determined in order to cancel the initial swirl successfully, possibly by trial and error, or with a live preview.
Return to Canada
After five years' incarceration in Thailand, on September 29, 2012, Neil returned to Canada, whereupon he was immediately arrested at Vancouver International Airport under a Criminal Code 810.1 warrant. On October 3, 2012, he was released from custody on strict conditions. On August 2, 2013, Neil was arrested at his home for breach of recognizance. He pled guilty in October. Child pornography was found on his laptop and his cell phone. His sentencing occurred on May 6, 2014, at which time he received three months' jail time plus three years' probation for breach of conditions. Neil was already in custody, having been denied bail on April 10, 2014, pending a criminal trial stemming from additional child sex abuse offences he is alleged to have committed in Cambodia.
- "Images of 'paedophile' released". BBC News. May 6, 2008. Retrieved April 30, 2010.
- INTERPOL has confirmed Thai and Cambodian identification of Christopher Paul Neil as Vico, Interpol Media release, 16 October 2007
- B.C. teacher sentenced to 6 more years in Thai prison for abusing boy
- Net pedophile suspect arrested
- Alleged pedophile taught at B.C. school 6 months ago
- "Alleged pedophile taught at B.C. school 6 months ago". CBC News. October 17, 2007.
- "Interpol issues rare global appeal to help find Web pedophile". Reuters.
- Doland, Angela; Leicester, John (October 16, 2007). "Suspected pedophile left tracks on Web". USA Today. Retrieved April 30, 2010.
- Reuters "Thailand nabs hunted Canadian pedophile suspect" October 19, 2007
- Pedophile suspect denies Thai charges
- Pedophile suspect in Thailand pleads not guilty
- "'Swirl' suspect trial adjourned". BBC News. March 10, 2008. Retrieved April 30, 2010.
- Thai court jails "swirly-face" Canadian pedophile
- Canadian sentenced in pedophile trial in Thailand[dead link]
- "Thai police expand hunt for suspected Western paedophiles"
- INTERPOL media release - 06/05/2008
- The Hindu Business Line : Net ends chase
- INTERPOL media release - 08/05/2008
- AMW.com | Wayne Corliss - Fugitive
- INTERPOL and its member countries following up on leads to identify unknown man in child sexual abuse images
- "Best Santa ever' arrested in N.J. on child sex charges". Associated Press. 2008.[dead link]
- Integrated Child Exploitation Team (2012-10-01). "RCMP in BC - Christopher NEIL arrested upon his return to Canada". Bc.cb.rcmp-grc.gc.ca. Retrieved 2014-02-10.
- "Child sex offender in B.C. released on strict conditions". CBC News. October 3, 2012. Retrieved 2014-02-10.
- "'Swirl face' pedophile to appear in Richmond court today | CTV Vancouver News". Bc.ctvnews.ca. 2013-12-05. Retrieved 2014-02-10.
- "Child predator Neil to undergo psych assessment". Richmond Review. 17 January 2014. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
- "'Swirl Face' pedophile who breached conditions gets three months, plus probation | Yahoo News". The Canadian Press. 2014-05-06. Retrieved 2014-05-06.
- "B.C. judge refuses bail for convicted pedophile facing more charges | Yahoo News". The Canadian Press. 2014-04-10. Retrieved 2014-04-10.