A man from Kent has been sentenced to 13 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to directing the sexual abuse of young children around the world.
Matthew Bower, aged 52, from Swanley, was identified by National Crime Agency officers after information was received by the FBI that a man from the UK had been paying for images of a young girl being sexually abused.
The victim, a 15 year old girl, spoke to police officers in the US in early August 2017 and told them she had been sexually abused by a female family member for a number of months. She stated that the abuse was photographed and the images were being sent to a man in the UK for various sums of money.
Officers from the FBI arrested the woman and she provided them with an email address, username and Paypal details of the man she had taken the photographs for.
This information was sent to officers at the NCA who were able to identify Bower.
He was arrested on the 22 August 2017 on suspicion of possessing indecent images of children and arranging and facilitating the commission of a child sex offence. Officers searched his house and a number of devices were seized.
Upon examination of the devices, chat logs were recovered which showed Bower – using the username ‘evo5_mat’ – telling the woman what he wanted her to do to the victim. In some of the chat, he says “OK KINDA LIKE TO SEE BOTH OF U PICS, SO MAYBE WAIT UNTIL TOMORROW IS SHE FREE” and then “SENT U 80 SO EXPECT A LOT”.
NCA investigators identified that she had sent Bower 308 images of herself with the victim, as well as two ‘live-streamed’ videos between 2016 and 2017. Financial records showed that over a six year period, Bower had sent her approximately £6,000, the majority in return for the abuse material.
NCA officers also found additional chat logs and online conversations where Bower was actively encouraging others to sexually abuse young children.
They also identified a woman in Romania who had been abusing a child under the age of two, as directed by Bower. Information was shared with international law enforcement partners and the woman was arrested in August 2018. She was convicted in December 2019 of rape and child abuse offences and is currently serving more than eight years in prison.
Bower had also been contacting a number of children online via Skype, encouraging them to send him naked photos and perform sexual acts on camera. Two girls, aged 8 and 15, from the United States were identified as having been coerced by Bower into sending indecent images. Both have since been safeguarded by the US authorities.
He initially told officers he had been the victim of hacking, but in October 2023, pleaded guilty to 15 offences including causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity and making over 1,700 indecent images of children, including category A images.
Jen Cruickshank, Senior Investigating Officer at the NCA, said:
“Bower is clearly a dangerous individual who has a depraved sexual interest in children. For a significant period of time he actively sought people online – both adults and children – whom he could coerce into sending him abuse material for his sexual gratification.
“I’d like to pay tribute to the victims who bravely spoke about the abuse they had suffered. The initial victim report was the catalyst for this investigation and ultimately led to us being able to identify Bower and ensure further victims were safeguarded.
“The NCA is dedicated to protecting children and disrupting the highest harm offenders wherever they are in the world. Collaboration with our international colleagues is imperative in achieving this.”
Sentencing him at Croydon Crown Court today (25 January) HHJ Lowe gave Bower an extended sentence, saying he had “no hesitation in concluding you are dangerous”.
The offences Bower pleaded guilty to were committed between 2008 and 2017.