BANGKOK, Thailand – A Canadian schoolteacher accused of sexually abusing over a dozen boys was arrested Friday in rural Thailand after an unprecedented public appeal from Interpol had turned him into the world's most wanted suspected pedophile.
The suspect, 32-year-old Christopher Paul Neil, had been hiding in the town of a Thai friend who arranged some of his alleged sexual liaisons with boys, police said.
"Bingo! We've got him," police Maj. Gen. Wimol Powintara told The Associated Press.
Neil was driven from the province of Nakhon Ratchasima to the national police headquarters in Bangkok, about 210 kilometers (130 miles) away.
Handcuffed, with a blue shirt draped over his head, Neil made no comment to reporters as officers led him into the headquarters, where a news conference was scheduled later in the day.
He declined to give details of the arrest, saying a news conference would be held in Bangkok later in the day.
Shortly before the arrest, Wimol said police had rushed to the northeastern province Thursday night after receiving credible information that Neil had fled there. Residents said they had spotted the Canadian near the home of the Thai friend, Wimol said.
Neil lived in Thailand from 2002 to early 2004, police said.
Thai authorities issued an arrest warrant Thursday for Neil after determining that he may have sexually abused boys in Thailand, in addition to a dozen Cambodian and Vietnamese boys, some as young as 6, whom Interpol suspects he abused.
He was to be extradited to Canada after being prosecuted in Thailand, said police spokesman Pongsapat Pongjaren.
The Thai arrest warrant was based on the testimony of one boy, who said he was lured to Neil's apartment in Bangkok by a Thai man, Wimol said Thursday.
The boy was one of three Thai youths, aged 9, 13 and 14 at the time, who contacted police Wednesday after seeing Neil's photograph on television. They claimed he had paid them to perform oral sex on him in 2003, Wimol said earlier, adding that the Canadian allegedly also had sex with at least one other underaged male.
The boys said the suspect showed them pornographic images on his computer at his apartment in Bangkok, and paid them each 500 baht to 1,000 baht (US$16 to US$32; euro11 to euro22), Wimol said.
Neil has taught at various schools in Thailand, South Korea and Vietnam since at least 2000.
He suddenly left his most recent teaching job in South Korea last week on a one-way ticket for Thailand as investigators closed in on his identity. Cameras at the immigration counter captured his image as he arrived at Bangkok's international airport.
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 German police were able to reconstruct a recognizable image and Interpol circulated those images last week.
The suspect was identified with the help of hundreds of tips from people who responded to an unprecedented appeal by Interpol for public assistance.
More clues about the suspect's background emerged with the discovery of a Web page on the social networking site MySpace that Interpol officials believe was kept by Neil.
"Been kicking around Asia for the past five years, teaching mainly and finding other forms of mischief," reads the profile, which describes 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 passion for drama, musicals and karaoke.
Before teaching in Asia, Neil had worked as a chaplain in Canada, counseling teens.
Canadian authorities have said they would seek his extradition. Canada has sex tourism laws allowing prosecution for crimes committed abroad.