Predators lurk in web’s dark corners: Investigative report

JUST about anything evil can be bought on the dark web - drugs, hit men and violent pornography - as journalist Eileen Ormsby found during the five years she spent researching this vile other world.

This extract from her book The Darkest Web details the capture of Australian pedophile Peter Scully and violent child porn promoter from Melbourne, Matthew Graham.

Peter Scully told 60 Minutes he wasn’t a pedophile while living in Australia and can’t pinpoint when he became such a monstrous abuser of children. Picture: Cebu Daily News
Peter Scully told 60 Minutes he wasn’t a pedophile while living in Australia and can’t pinpoint when he became such a monstrous abuser of children. Picture: Cebu Daily News

ONCE Daisy's Destruction gained notoriety, an international manhunt set out to track down those responsible for the vile video.

Crossborder task forces studied every detail of the No Limits Fun footage to narrow down the geographic region of the abuse.

On February 20, 2015, Peter Scully, an Australian man living in the Philippines, was arrested, literally with his pants around his ankles, and charged with an array of offences.

Later it emerged that not only was he behind Daisy's Destruction and various other films produced by NLF depicting the rape and torture of children, but the remains of an 11-year-old girl were found buried in a shallow grave at a house Scully previously rented.

Scully, a father of two, had fled Australia some years before to avoid fraud charges.

He had orchestrated property and computer scams that allowed him to fleece millions of dollars from duped investors.

He told 60 Minutes that he was not a pedophile while in Australia, nor when he first arrived in the Philippines.

He claimed he could not pinpoint when or why he became such a monstrous abuser of children.

Peter Scully behind bars in the Philippines.
Peter Scully behind bars in the Philippines.

Scully and his girlfriend, Liezyl Margallo, ran NLF from Mindanao in the Philippines, producing videos of themselves carrying out heinous crimes on children from as young as 18 months.

Scully would force children to perform sex acts on each other and his girlfriends, as well as himself, as he filmed them for distribution.

He also forced the children to dig their own graves in his backyard, telling them they would eventually be buried there.

In some cases, the parents of the children willingly handed them over to him, believing him to be a benefactor who would provide them a better life than they, in their desperate poverty, were able to.

Other times Scully's "girlfriends" - former child prostitutes in their late teens - were tasked with finding street kids for him to "adopt".

Scully would send his girlfriends out with instructions to find specific-aged girls - never older than 12 - and lure them back to his home with the promise of food.

Despite allegedly absconding with millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains from Australia, and earning up to $10,000 for a single video, Scully did not seem to live an extravagant lifestyle.

A mug shot of Peter Scully’s girlfriend Liezyl Margallo, who helped him find young girls to lure back to their home.
A mug shot of Peter Scully’s girlfriend Liezyl Margallo, who helped him find young girls to lure back to their home.

The house in which he was captured was modest and unrenovated, as was the house where the body of 11-year-old Cindy was found.

Wearing a grotesque mardi gras mask, Liezyl Margallo carried out the physical torture of Daisy, as well as children in other films.

She and Scully were charged with kidnap, rape, torture and murder.

Heinous though his crimes were, they were not crimes that carry the death penalty in the Philippines.

There were reports that authorities considered reinstating the death penalty to execute Scully, an initiative that had considerable support from the public, but that never eventuated.

Daisy was found alive and taken into care, but she sustained permanent physical injuries from her treatment by Scully and Margallo, and will never be able to bear children.

Margallo claimed Scully had filmed Cindy being strangled to death, but police did not discover any such footage.

There were many hours of documented sexual abuse and torture of children, but it stopped short of film of any murder.

One of the masks Liezyl Margallo would wear during filming of the videos.
One of the masks Liezyl Margallo would wear during filming of the videos.

There is little doubt that Peter Scully harmed many more than the three children whose abuse he has been charged with.

However, much of the prosecution's evidence against Scully, including computer hardware, memory card, camera, computer monitor, video recorder and chains, were destroyed in a fire that gutted the Hall of Justice in the Philippines earlier that year.

Scully's accomplices - his "girlfriends" who carried out much of the abuse on the children, while wearing masks under Scully's direction - could be considered more victims of his depravity.

Liezyl Margallo, the young woman who featured in Daisy's Destruction, however, showed little remorse and went on the run soon after Scully's arrest.

NLF released more videos and it emerged that Margallo remained in touch with Scully, who many believed continued to carry on his business from prison.

 

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"IT WAS my clear duty to watch it," the judge said. "I wish it hadn't been. It is the worst thing I have ever seen."

The County Court justice who had been allocated the sentencing hearing of Matthew Graham was reluctant to view Daisy's Destruction and was now letting Matthew Graham - and the rest of the courtroom - know what he thought of it.

"To you it was just footage for your stock," the judge said. "It was pure evil."

The prosecutor had insisted that the judge view Daisy's Destruction to understand the true nature of the materials Lux sought out for his site.

Some allowance for the judge's sensibilities had been made by way of removing the sound.

(One police officer involved in the case mentioned that the sound - the continual screams of a toddler being brutalised - was the most gruesome part of the video.)

The judge presiding over Matthew Graham’s case was forced to watch Daisy’s Destruction against his better judgment.
The judge presiding over Matthew Graham’s case was forced to watch Daisy’s Destruction against his better judgment.

The judge was not at all keen.

"Do I really need to see it to form a view that this material is depraved?" he asked.

Graham's own barrister had not seen the clips, nor did he have any desire for the judge to see them.

Graham was silently sobbing in the back of the courtroom as the learned people had their debate.

"There was prestige in being able to deliver Daisy's Destruction. It was highly sought after?" asked the judge.

"Yes," agreed both prosecution and defence.

"And it was for a reason, right?"

"Mr Graham does not dispute the description of the material," the defence barrister said, acknowledging that it was the "worst of the worst".

The prosecutor read out precedents supporting her request.

"Seeing it brings it home," she said, "in a real and tangible way rather than just reading a description of it."

Although the judge agreed he was legally obliged to view the video, he was in no hurry to do so.

The discussion was held in the morning, and it was agreed that His Honour would watch the film at lunchtime.

After lunch, however, he reported he had not been able to bring himself to watch it.

At 4.00pm the prosecutor suggested he might like to watch it then.

"I don't think I'm quite up to it right now," he said.

The judge eventually excused himself for half an hour the next day to view the footage.

When he returned to the courtroom he was pale and quiet.

"How any human can view that impassively ..." he said.

"The infant was being tortured, actual physical torture ... an extremely trusting, vulnerable child who begins smiling wearing a nappy and ends a wailing physical wreck."

In a quiet, high-pitched voice, the young man with no prior criminal record answered "Guilty" to each count read out to him.

Life had not been easy for Matthew Graham since his arrest.

Violent child porn promoter Matthew Graham could be released from jail in as little as 10 years.
Violent child porn promoter Matthew Graham could be released from jail in as little as 10 years.

Although housed with other sex offenders, he had been assaulted and abused by both prisoners and guards.

Just as it had been online, in prison he was looked upon as lowest of low for his crimes.

He had been in protective custody, where he would remain for the foreseeable future.

Members of his family, including his sister and his father, the man police had originally thought was Lux, sat through the hearings in a show of support.

When a scene-by-scene description of Daisy's Destruction isn't the most depraved thing you hear before noon, you know you are in for a really tough day.

Among the charges, Lux was accused of aiding and abetting the abduction, rape and murder of a five-year-old child in Russia.

But it was the detailed description of the abuse of a seven-year- old profoundly disabled girl - in a wheelchair with MS - that forced several people to leave the courtroom and caused the eyes of the father of the defendant to well up.

Graham's father wept openly as the court heard a transcript of the conversation between Lux and the abuser, where Lux advised him that the film would be too dangerous to sell, but he should make it for his own gratification.

Even more vile was the cavalier way in which they spoke about their victims. Joking that as the seven-year-old was mute, "at least you don't have to worry about her accent giving her away".

AS MORE horrors were read out in court, spectators, including some members of Graham's own family, stumbled from the room, traumatised by what they were hearing.

The cover of Eileen Ormsby’s new book, The Darkest Web.
The cover of Eileen Ormsby’s new book, The Darkest Web.

Those who stayed heard of three-year-old Sarah, with a plastic bag over her head and rope around her neck and the word "rape" scrawled across her stomach.

There were descriptions of images of children engaged in bestiality and photographs that purported to show children decapitated or raped to death.

A 15-year-old girl had been blackmailed into penetrating and torturing herself on video while holding up signs as a sick advertisement for Hurt2theCore.

Matthew Graham spent the two-day hearing alternating between looking around the courtroom defiantly and sitting hunched over in apparent distress, occasionally sobbing quietly.

His defence team made a valiant effort in introducing mitigating circumstances that should reduce his sentence.

No contact offending had been alleged against Matthew Graham.

He never profited from his crimes in any way.

He was a sad, friendless little boy who was desperate for attention and accolades from his peers.

Meanwhile the people who had given him healthy and positive attention - his family - stood by him in court, even while their hearts broke.

Graham's family had the most difficult situation of "hate the sin, love the sinner" there could possibly be.

No doubt there are those who would judge and revile them for standing by their son, nephew and brother.

But nobody looked more bewildered than Graham's father about how the monster came to be.

Certainly, there was nothing to suggest that he in any way created the fiend.

No abuse, no neglect; there was no suggestion of anything but love and helpless support as he and his wife struggled to help their son cope with the world.

"They would never in their wildest dreams have imagined you were living the twisted, evil life you were in the dark shadows of the cyber world," the judge told Matthew, who bowed his head.

On 17 March 2016, the County Court sentenced Matthew Graham to 15 years in prison.

With good behaviour and concessions, he could be released in as little as 10 years.

Extracted from The Darkest Web by Eileen Ormsby. Published by Allen & Unwin. Out now. $32.99. http://bit.ly/2Fg7xs3