The hunt for a "monster" who was captured in a horrific webcam movie molesting a little girl has prompted Toronto Police to release the suspect's photo -- a first for Canadian police.
Sex crimes officers made the bold move yesterday after seizing the movie, with the words "Canadian Girl" in the title, from 10 of 27 suspects arrested in four countries in one of the largest international child porn rings ever.
"Good for Toronto (Police) for doing this," said Det. Randy Wickins, an Edmonton police officer who stumbled on the ring while investigating another child porn offender last year.
"This is a monster that needs to be caught and this little girl needs to be saved," he said. "The children we are talking about are being tortured. We should do anything to find them."
The probe, called Project Wickerman, named after the 1973 movie about a police search for a missing girl called The Wicker Man, has lead police to hundreds of suspects in Australia, the U.S., U.K. and Canada and more arrests are expected.
The ring was responsible for trading child abuse images, and sometimes viewing live rapes of children as young as newborns in a chat room called Kiddypics & Kiddyvids.
"We need to find her to make sure she is safe. We want to know who this man is and where this room is," said Staff-Insp. Jane Wilcox, head of the Toronto Police sex crimes unit.
Releasing suspect photos of unidentified men has drawn criticism in the past from victim advocates who believe identifying suspects could identify victims.
Asked if he would release the victim's photo in this case, Det.-Sgt. Paul Gillespie, head of the Toronto Police child exploitation section, said he may consider it as a last resort.
"There's always a possibility that this investigation will force us to forge new ground," he said, noting the FBI has identified seven child porn suspects after releasing their photos on America's Most Wanted recently. "We may release her picture later on, if it comes to that."
Toronto Police made a similar move last year when they released altered photos of a hotel room in order to identify a victim. Those pictures, which also had the victim removed, led police to a Disney World resort, and eventually the victim who had suffered five years of abuse before being found.
Masha Allen, 13, who was adopted from Russia at age 5, had already been rescued and her abuser, Matthew Mancuso, 47, was serving life when Toronto released the photos.
"I hope we get the news that this girl has been rescued and that this guy is in jail, but the reality is nothing we have done to date would lead us to that determination," he said.