London-based children's charity Kidscape had its entire computer database stolen Sunday as part of a suspected paedophile operation.
The highly sensitive information contained the case histories of 20,000 abused children, including their addresses and telephone numbers. Five computers including the charity's mainframe server were stolen from the second floor offices of Kidscape.
The charity is concerned that a paedophile ring planned the burglary in an attempt to target vulnerable children. It admits to being a target for paedophile threats in the past. "It's very upsetting. The burglars could ring up and harass people that we have dealt with. If this happens, we want to hear about it immediately," said Michelle Elliot, director of Kidscape.
Based in Victoria, Kidscape works with families around the country to prevent the sexual abuse and bullying of children. "It would be devastating [if paedophiles contacted the children involved], and would set the children back severely, bringing back all kinds of memories," Elliot explained.
Belgravia police force is coordinating the investigation. It is appealing to the burglars to return the computers. Kidscape has no electronic back-up of the files. "Let us know that you're just thieves and that you have wiped the information," pleads Elliot.
The burglary follows a recent epidemic of concern about paedophiles using Internet chatrooms to meet and "groom" children for abuse. In January, seven Britons pleaded guilty for their participation in the world's biggest Internet pornography ring.
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