The images and videos in this particular case are the most disturbing I have ever viewed.
It is impossible not to find them distressing.
They are images that will remain with me forever.
Detective Constable Tanya Shotbolt was the investigating officer who helped put 21-year-old Clint Gilbert behind bars for 18-years for a string of child sex offences.
She has eight years’ experience working in the Child Abuse Investigation Unit and the Internet Child Abuse Investigation team at Bedfordshire Police.
Gilbert sickeningly groomed families to gain unsupervised access to their children.
For two years he sexually assaulted young children and shared repulsive images of his victims across the internet.
Links to Gilbert were made when files he shared on the internet were discovered as part of another investigation. His activity was exposed when he was linked to a case in Minnesota, America and another case in Cumbria.
The case was referred to us at 4pm on 30 March and by 7pm we had him in custody at police HQ in Kempston. We turned up at his house to make the arrest but he wasn’t there – a challenge we are often faced with. We were told he was at the local bingo hall so made our way across town to detain him.
This was a really complex case. We were unsure of the extent of the investigation at that stage.
We knew he had taken pictures of children naked. We did not know if he had sexually abused them.
It was not until we started to delve into the pictures we knew he had taken that the full extent of his offending came to light.
We managed to trace victims by speaking to family members, friends and relatives plus making enquiries into who else Gilbert may have had access to.
Showing this kind of image to parents to see if they can identify their children is very distressing.
We cropped the pictures to see if they could recognise furniture which featured in the images or clothing worn by the children. This helped identify which child was being abused and where.
We discovered Gilbert had exploited the trust of families to sexually abuse their children, take photographs of his acts, distribute those photographs and keep them for his own sexual gratification.
Once arrested we conducted a search of his home address.
Many computer items, storage devices, cameras, phones and tablets were seized during the search and handed over to Bedfordshire Police High Tech Crime unit to be examined in detail. A huge amount of work was done to retrieve images that had been deleted.
Not only did we have to examine every image and video found on his computers and mobile devices, we also scrutinised the online chats. We work hard to retrieve every piece of evidence by searching the device, emails, web browsing history. We pull together everything, no matter how big or small.
When one of these cases comes to light we make sure no stone is left unturned to ensure every victim is accounted for and safeguarded if necessary.
We secured the charge and then had a few months to build the case knowing he was behind bars.
Clint gloated to other like-minded people across the globe, sharing his debauched acts and engaging in stomach-turning conversations.
When you are working with families of victims on such a sensitive case you are desperate to get the best result for the parents and children. We were pleased to hear him admit his guilt to this predatory behaviour and spare the family the added ordeal of going through a crown court trial.
The significant sentence he was given shows the gravity of offences committed by Gilbert. We are pleased he received such a long stretch behind bars and hope it can go some way in giving the families closure.
Yet the trauma he inflicted on his victims and their families is despicable and nothing can ever undo the harm he has caused.
Child safety is paramount and we are committed to tackling abuse against children in all forms.
Gilbert pleaded guilty in July to a total of 14 charges including nine sexual assaults on five young children in the town and a further five charges relating to possessing and distributing indecent images. You can read about his sentencing here.