Published October 17, 2007
BANGKOK, Thailand – An arrest warrant will be issued for a Canadian pedophilia suspect targeted in a global manhunt for allegedly having sex with two teenage boys in Bangkok, a Thai police official said Thursday.
School teacher Christopher Paul Neil, 32, has been accused of sexually abusing at least a dozen Cambodian and Vietnamese boys, some as young as 6 years old. He has taught in Thailand, South Korea and Vietnam.
Neil is believed to be in Thailand where police are attempting to track him down through his network of friends.
Two Thai teenagers came forward Wednesday to testify that Neil had allegedly paid them for sex in 2003 and also showed them computer porn, said Police Lt. Wimon Pao-in. He said the two were 13 and 14 years old at the time.
Border guards in Thailand and neighboring countries were on alert in case Neil tried to leave Thailand. Cameras at the immigration counter captured him arriving at Bangkok's international airport Thursday from South Korea.
"We are quite certain he is still in Thailand and we think we are moving closer," said Police Col. Apichart Suribunya, who is coordinating the Thai investigation. "Even if he uses a fake passport to try to get out of the country, his pictures are already published everywhere."
"We are also trying to find more information and investigate his connections in Thailand that he made during his previous stay so we can get closer to him and his network of friends," he added.
The hunt for Neil began three years ago when German police discovered about 200 online photographs of a man sexually abusing children. His face was digitally obscured, but a breakthrough in the case came when German police were able to reconstruct a recognizable image of the man who has eluded police for years.
He was identified with the help of hundreds of tips from people who responded to an unprecedented appeal by Interpol for public assistance.
Interpol officials said they believed a page on the social networking Web site MySpace was created by Neil.
"Been kicking around Asia for the past five years, teaching mainly and finding other forms of mischief," read his profile, which also described him as "5 feet, 11 inches tall, slim and slender."
"I love teaching, can't get enough of it really," the entry says, going on to describe his love of drama, musicals and karaoke.
Friends described Neil as fun to be around. Co-workers gave mixed reviews of his teaching skills, but all described a man they believed to be harmless.
Former colleagues in South Korea said he arrived in August to teach at a small international school in the city of Gwangju. He failed to show up for work Thursday — the day he flew to Bangkok on a one-way, full-fare ticket, according to Interpol.
"He was a very good teacher. Well-organized, well prepared. His kids really liked him," said Ray Fowler, a Canadian teacher at the school who said he lived next door to Neil. He said Neil, who taught social studies and English to grades seven and eight, would join other teachers at his place to drink beer and listen to music on Friday nights.
It was a different story in Thailand. Officials at Ramkhamhaeng Advent International School said Neil taught there from August 2003 to January 2004.
"He didn't pass the probation," said Poramit Srikureja, an assistant chairman of the Christian school in Bangkok.
Poramit said the school gave Neil verbal and written warnings about his teaching performance, in particular sloppy lesson plans and leaving students unsupervised in the classroom.
Both schools said there were no complaints of abuse by parents or students while he was there.
Capt. Hope Carr, a public affairs officer for Canada's military, said Neil worked as a chaplain and counselor for youths aged 12 to 18 from 1998 to 2000 at a cadet training center in Nova Scotia.
Neil will be extradited to Canada once he is arrested, said Kim Scanlan of the Toronto police child exploitation unit. Canada's sex tourism laws allow prosecution for crimes committed abroad.