More than 18,000 images of child abuse have been uncovered on material which allegedly belonged to a primary school cleaner, a court heard on Friday.
As 34-year-old Gary Carruthers appeared at Newtownards Magistrates’ Court on videolink, an officer from the National Crime Agency told the court how half of the 1.3 million images had been examined so far, adding that an interim forensic report indicated there were “18,000 plus so far...which had been deemed inappropriate or illegal”.
Carruthers, from Victoria Street in Belfast, is in custody accused of two counts of possessing and making indecent images of children and of having a “paeophile mannual that contained advice or guidance about abusing children sexually” on September 16.
The charges arise after officers from the National Crime Agency uncovered 30 storage devices hidden in a safe in his bedroom along with the 170 page paedophile handbook and previous courts initially heard there were 6,000 images or pseudo images where children’s faces were superimposed onto abusive photographs.
Two weeks ago a prosecuting lawyer revealed that “well over a million images” had been found which “will have to be sifted through,” further revealing that in an effort to “expedite” the investigation an outside, private forensic supplier had been commissioned to look through those images and produce a report.
On Friday the NCA officer told District Judge Des Perry that of the images uncovered so far, they have been classified “right through [levels] from one to five” and that he hoped there would be a full report on the findings in early January.
“In terms of the remaining images we will continue to review those in between times,” said the officer.
It has been alleged previously that the images uncovered had been classified across the entire range of images from level one which according to guidelines depicts erotic posing, right up to level five which portrays full penetrative sexual acts with adults, often with elements of sadomasochism while the manual was a guide on “how to approach a child” and gave detailed steps on how to groom a child, from the first introduction to full physical abuse.
Since his arrest, the principal of the Co Down primary school where Carruthers worked as a part-time cleaner issued a letter to reassure parents whose children attended the school, assuring that the school is working with the police and offering them an opportunity to meet to discuss any concerns.
“The safety and protection of the children is my highest priority and I will continue to work with the PSNI and all the relevant authorities including the CCMS and Education Authority and I will keep you informed of any developments,” said the letter.
Following his short court appearance on Friday, Judge Perry remanded Carruthers back into custody to appear again on 15 January, commenting that “it sounds as if there’s good progress in the case.”