Matthew Alexander Falder (born November, 1988) is a convicted English serial sex offender and blackmailer who coerced his victims online into sending him degrading images of themselves or into committing crimes against a third person such as rape or assault. Falder hid behind anonymous accounts on the web and then re-posted the images to gain a higher status on the dark web. Investigators said that he "revelled" in getting images to share on hurtcore websites. The National Crime Agency (NCA), described him as "one of the most prolific and depraved offenders they had ever encountered."
In October 2017, he pleaded guilty to 137 charges from 46 complainants, making him one of the UK's most prolific convicted sex offenders. In February 2018 he was jailed for 32 years and ordered to serve a further six years on extended licence. On 16 October 2018, the Court of Appeal reduced the term of imprisonment to 25 years, with an extended licence of 8 years.
Early life and career
Matthew Alexander Falder was born in Manchester and grew up in Knutsford. He attended Kings School in Macclesfield, Cheshire, where it was reported that he had "excelled" and in 2007 was one of only 4% of participants awarded gold in the UK Senior Mathematics Challenge.
After school he attended Clare College of the University of Cambridge, specialising in seismic oceanography and earning master's and doctoral degrees. At the time of his arrest, he was working as a post-doctoral researcher and lecturer in geophysics at the University of Birmingham. Falder was well-liked in his peer group, and was described as being extroverted, funny and larger than life.
Falders' offending was detected as long ago as 2009. He did not actually meet or physically touch any of his victims; everything was done over the dark web. Falder manipulated young men, women and children to photograph themselves in compromising positions and then offered the images up online. In April 2015, the NCA discovered someone posting to the hurtcore websites under the name "666devil", who later turned out to be Falder.
NCA officers arrested Falder at his place of work on 21 June 2017. When they read out a list of the offences he was suspected of committing, Falder remarked that it sounded "like the rap sheet from hell". Falder's victims numbered over 50, and it took over 30 minutes to read out the charges to him at Birmingham Crown Court. Originally charged with 188 offences, he pleaded not guilty to 51 of them; the prosecution accepted this, but they were ordered to remain on file. Falder used various accounts on several websites to pose as a young girl or woman named 'Liz'. On the dark web Falder used names such as 'inthegarden', '666devil' and 'evilmind'. Falder had seventy different online identities. He lured people into taking photographs of themselves in humiliating situations. He blackmailed one person into raping a four-year-old child. Falder engaged in hurtcore, which police have characterised as manipulating others into performing acts of "rape, murder, sadism, torture, paedophilia, blackmail, humiliation and degradation". One of Falder's victims was just 14 years old; Falder said online he would “mentally f**k her up” and added, “I am not sure I care if she lives or dies.” Falder increased the pressure on his victims, at least four of whom attempted suicide. When one of his victims said that it had to stop or they would kill themselves, Falder replied that the images he already had on them would be circulated on the Internet anyway. Falder maintained he could not be caught and said he did not care if the victims lived or died.
In addition to the National Crime Agency (NCA), the investigation to uncover his identity involved GCHQ, US Homeland Security, Europol, Australian Federal Police, New Zealand Police, and the Israel Police; it lasted four years. Will Kerr of the NCA feels tech companies gave less than ideal cooperation with the police during the enquiry. Kerr maintains accounts were closed down possibly preventing police identifying other victims and identifying patterns of offending. Kerr fears this may have delayed identifying offenders and Kerr wants government action to make tech companies cooperate better in future. The NCA detailed crimes such as blackmailing people into eating faeces, licking toilet seats and tampons and persuading people to eat dog food. They described him as "one of the most prolific and depraved offenders they had ever encountered".
On 16 October 2017, Falder pleaded guilty to 137 offences against 46 victims, making him one of the most prolific sex offenders in British history. At Birmingham Crown Court on 19 February 2018, Judge Philip Parker sentenced Falder to 32 years in prison, and ordered him to serve a further 6 years on extended licence after his release. Falder will not be eligible for parole until he is at least 50 years old in 2038. If the Parole Board believes that Falder continues to pose a danger to the public or to children, he may have to serve the full 32 years in prison. The judge at the sentencing hearing described Falder as an "internet highwayman" who was "warped and sadistic" and whose behaviour was "cunning, persistent, manipulative and cruel." After sentencing, investigators released footage of his arrest and described how Falder "revelled" in the anguish and pain that he had caused. Falder is appealing against his sentence.
Ruona Iguyovwe, of the CPS, said, “Matthew Falder is a highly manipulative individual who clearly enjoyed humiliating his many victims and the impact of his offending in this case has been significant. He deliberately targeted young and vulnerable victims. At least three victims are known to have attempted suicide and some others have inflicted self-harm. There was a high degree of sophistication and significant planning by Falder due to his use of encryption software and technology in his electronic communication and the use of multiple fake online identities and encrypted email addresses.” Prosecutors stated Falder lived a double life, a graduate of Cambridge University and Birmingham University researcher during the day and a sexual predator at night. Police officer Matt Sutton said, ‘In more than 30 years of law enforcement I’ve never come across an offender whose sole motivation was to inflict such profound anguish and pain. Matthew Falder revelled in it. I’ve also never known such an extremely complex investigation with an offender who was technologically savvy and able to stay hidden in the darkest recesses of the dark web. This investigation represents a watershed moment. Falder is not alone so we will continue to develop and deliver our capabilities nationally for the whole law enforcement system to stop offenders like him from wrecking innocent lives. I commend the victims for their bravery and I urge anyone who is being abused online to report it. There is help available.’
Javed Khan of Barnardo's stated, "This [32-year prison] sentence sends a message to paedophiles that they will pay for their crimes while, hopefully giving other child abuse victims the confidence to come forward and seek justice. (...) Barnardo’s wants to encourage parents to talk to their children about the potential dangers online and know what new apps they’re using and which websites they’re visiting, so they can help keep them safe. Barnardo’s also wants tech companies to sign up to an online code of practice to protect children, incorporate safety features when designing products and take action as soon as abuse becomes flagged. Children and young people need to know how to report abuse through age appropriate relationships and sex education."
A spokesperson for the University of Birmingham said, "The University is shocked to hear of the abhorrent crimes committed by a former post-doctoral researcher.”
The University of Cambridge stated after the sentencing that they were "actively pursuing" ways of stripping Falder of his academic qualifications. The university could not say if there was a precedent for a removal process for its alumni.
- twitter = @matfald